Losing the media battle, waging the policy war: The pharmaceutical industry’s response to the access to medicines crisis in the Global South

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This article sheds new light on the pharmaceutical industry’s response to the public relations crisis generated by the global civil society campaign for access to HIV/AIDS medicines since the early 2000s – one of the most contentious policy areas of global trade and health governance. Drawing on interviews with industry insiders, the article explores the industry’s communicative agency in both the media sphere and key sites of power, with a focus on the European Union (EU) policy sphere. The analysis shows that the industry has focused primarily on maintaining access to policymakers and sustaining elite consensus around the existing global intellectual property rights regime through political communication activities that largely bypass mediated public arenas – from strategically promoting its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and mobilizing third-party endorsement to direct lobbying. The article concludes by reflecting on the implications of the findings for critical investigations of the interplay between media and political power in relation to global economic governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-294
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Media and Communication
Issue number3
Early online date4 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • communicative agency
  • pharmaceutical industry
  • public relations
  • corporate social responsibility

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