In the name of national security, governments are increasingly playing central roles in the “pharmaceuticalization” of society, according to a paper in Social Science and Medicine.
Written by scholars from the Centre for Global Health Policy at the University of Sussex, the research report describes recent developments in health policies being taken by many national governments motivated by security concerns.
“Whilst the pivotal role of industry is extensively documented, this article shows that governments too are accelerating, intensifying
and opening up new trajectories of pharmaceuticalization in society,” the researchers wrote. “Governments are becoming more deeply invested in pharmaceuticals because their national security strategies now aspire to defend populations against health-based threats like bioterrorism and pandemics.”
Aside from stockpiling “medical countermeasures,” governments are “marshaling the state’s unique powers to introduce exceptional measures in the name of protecting national security.” The researchers identified five “extraordinary policy interventions.” Governments are creating customized pathways for pharmaceutical companies to bypass normal drug regulatory approval processes and are granting comprehensive legal protections to pharmaceutical companies against injury compensation claims, the authors wrote. Governments are also “instantiating extraordinary emergency use procedures allowing for the use of unapproved medicines,” and are “designing innovative logistical distribution systems for mass drug administration outside of clinical settings.” And finally, the authors noted, governments are earmarking large amounts of public funds for all this.
All of these efforts, the authors argued, “are spawning a new, government-led and quite exceptional medical countermeasure regime operating beyond the conventional boundaries of pharmaceutical development and regulation.”
The article is part of a special issue of Social Science and Medicine focusing on the pharmaceuticalization of society.
Elbe, Stefan, Anne Roemer-Mahler, and Christopher Long. “Medical Countermeasures for National Security: A New Government Role in the Pharmaceuticalization of Society.” Social Science & Medicine 131 (April 2015): 263–71. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.04.035. (Full text)