Help prevent a sequel.

Fire in the Blood told the story of how Western pharmaceutical companies and governments blocked access to low-cost AIDS drugs for the countries of the global south in the years after 1996 - causing ten million or more unnecessary deaths.

The patents on drugs owned by the multinational pharmaceutical companies granted them monopolies, allowing them to set the market price for their drugs. Their strategy to maximise revenues meant pricing the drugs out of the reach of the developing world population.

It could be argued that pharmaceutical companies need to charge such high prices with these monopolies in order to fund the research and development required, and so patentsare used to incentivise such investment. However as mentioned in the film, 41% of all medical research and development of drugs, including 84% of basic drug discovery research worldwide is publicly funded.(1)(2)

Universities and public research bodies therefore play a key role in the early stages of the drug development process. They find and patent discoveries which are then licensed on to pharmaceutical companies to perform clinical trials and bring to market. However many of these licenses are exclusive, meaning that once licensed only that one company is allowed to sell that product once it reaches market. Again this means that company can charge a price out of the reach of developing countries.


Universities Allied for Essential Medicines believes this is unacceptable.


Universities are public institutions created with the purpose of innovation that benefits all members of society. That mission shouldn’t change when they shake hands with industry. Our vision is for universities and publicly funded research institutions to be part of the solution to the access to medicines crisis by promoting medical innovation in the public interest and ensuring that all people regardless of income have access to essential medicines and other health-related technologies.

At the moment, Research Councils UK (RCUK), the collection of bodies responsible for investing public money in research leave the responsibility of exploiting intellectual property arising from their grants with the organisations recieving the funding (3), so it can be difficult to ensure intellectual property is always exploited the public interest.

We believe every publicly funded technology with potential for further development into a drug, vaccine, or medical diagnostic should be licensed with a concrete and transparent strategy to make affordable versions available in resource-limited countries for medical care, in order to maximise public benefit. RCUK should therefore implement a policy, based on the six principles outlined in the Global Access Licensing Framework by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and make it a grant condition for institutions recieving public funding to abide by this policy.


But we need your help to make this change. Using the form below you can write to your MP, asking them to raise this issue with David Willetts (Universities and Science Minister) who oversees RCUK. It will only take ten minutes of your time, and could help improve access to essential medicines for all.


Background Information

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines is a international student led organisation that aims to promote global access to essential medicines and medical innovations around the world. Our mission and vision can be found on our website.

As part of our commitment to advance the cause of universal access to essential medicines we have partnered with UK release of ‘Fire in the Blood’ in order to engage the wider public in campaigning on these issues.

If you have any questions about our work don't hesitate to contact, or to keep up to date with our campaigning join our discussion groups, like us on facebook, or follow us on twitter


Continue to UAEM UK website ->





(1) Mary Anne Burke and Stephen A Matlin (eds.), Global Forum for Health Research, Monitoring Financial Flows for Health Research 2008. pp. xiv, Figure 1. Accessed online:

(2) Global Forum for Health Research, Monitoring Financial Flows for Health Research 2005. pp35, Accessed online:

(3) Grant Condition 21, Exploitation and Impact. Terms and Conditions of Research Council fEC Grants, RCUK, Revised Spring 2008. Accessed online: