Big-pharmaceuticalisation: Clinical trials and Contract Research Organisations in India

Salla Sariolaa, et al,Social Science and Medicine,2015
Open Access funded by Economic and Social Research Council
Under a Creative Commons license

The World Trade Organisation’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights [TRIPS] agreement aimed to harmonise intellectual property rights and patent protection globally. In India, the signing of this agreement resulted in a sharp increase in clinical trials since 2005. The Indian government, along with larger Indian pharmaceutical companies, believed that they could change existing commercial research cultures through the promotion of basic research as well as attracting international clinical trials, and thus create an international level, innovation-based drug industry. The effects of the growth of these outsourced and off-shored clinical trials on local commercial knowledge production in India are still unclear. What has been the impact of the increasing scale and commercialisation of clinical research on corporate science in India?

In this paper we describe Big-pharmaceuticalisation in India, whereby the local pharmaceutical industry is moving from generic manufacturing to innovative research. Using conceptual frameworks of pharmaceuticalisation and innovation, this paper analyses data from research conducted in 2010–2012 and describes how Contract Research Organisations (CROs) enable outsourcing of randomised control trials to India. Focussing on twenty-five semi-structured interviews CRO staff, we chart the changes in Indian pharmaceutical industry, and implications for local research cultures.

We use Big-pharmaceuticalisation to extend the notion of pharmaceuticalisation to describe the spread of pharmaceutical research globally and illustrate how TRIPS has encouraged a concentration of capital in India, with large companies gaining increasing market share and using their market power to rewrite regulations and introduce new regulatory practices in their own interest. Contract Research Organisations, with relevant, new, epistemic skills and capacities, are both manifestations of the changes in commercial research cultures, as well as the vehicles to achieve them. These changes have reinvigorated public concerns that stress not only access to new medicines but also the ‘price’ of innovation on research participants.

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