On Friday, February 12, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law hosted a talk by Yale Law School Professor and Faculty Director of the Global Health Justice Partnership, Amy Kapczynski. The talk was part of the Human Rights in Practice Series, which seeks to address current issues in human rights practice on the basis of groundbreaking scholarship. Professor Kapczynski engaged with human right practitioners, lawyers, and students, as she addressed the impact of the political economy on the judicialization of the right to medicines, both in the US and worldwide.
Amy Kapczynski’s presentation, “The Right to Medicines in an Age of Neoliberalism” drew on her work as an advocate for access to medicines, as well as on an ongoing academic research project on the issue. Kapczynski argued that the expense incurred by economically incentivized patents and international trade law mechanisms effectively undermines access to medicines and thereby compromises the human right to health. She also reflected on the relation between the right to health and the right to medicines and warned for the commodification of basic human rights and their narrow interpretation as access to market goods.
In her discussion, Professor Kapczynski cited several cases in Brazil, India and Kenya, which are illustrative of a critical rise in legal cases that reflect a growing willingness to use human rights laws to reinterpret and strike down intellectual property laws that impede access to medications.
Kapczynski argued for more nuanced analyses that acknowledge the many ways in which neoliberal logic undermines and compromises rights-holders’ right to access medicines. Such analyses should consider the political economy of pharmaceutical industries when assessing the right to medicines. She concluded the talk with a reflection on whether elevating the status of the right to medicines could be an effective tool to bring about the transformative change needed to ensure people’s right to health.