Biomedical Knowledge Commons

Biomedical Knowledge Commons

From the 15th-20th century, tens of thousands of powerful individuals, aided by state institutions, enclosed and privatized commonly-held land managed by local communities around the world. This process displaced hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers who, to a great degree, lost their autonomous means of sustenance and were forcibly cast into urban labour markets. This enclosure of life-supporting common land was a vast revolution of the rich against the poor.

In the late 20th century and early 21st century, a similar enclosure movement has taken place, aided by international intellectual property laws and treaties, regulatory capture and international trade agreements. This time, the action has transformed the public good of scientific medical knowledge and related health-related technologies into highly protected, privatized and expensive products.

Although our current biomedical system has produced important lifesaving and quality-of-life treatments, today billions of people around the world are unable to afford and access these medicines, resulting in over 10 million preventable deaths each year. These outcomes are perpetuated by an unacceptable policy paradigm for biomedical research.

In our work we show how a commons approach in biomedical research & development can help pull us out of the current crisis of over-diagnosis, over-prescription, low innovation, secrecy and sky-rocketing costs for both patients and health systems. This means regenerating value for the community rather than enclosing the commons for individual profit and replenishing knowledge and resources rather than extracting utility for competitive advantage.

Commons Network proposes policies with the power to transition society away from the current proprietary, centralised and extractive model. We promote a vision for future initiatives in line with commons principles. EU institutions can ensure the stewardship of health by ushering in a more democratic, affordable and sustainable biomedical system.

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