Diarmaid McDonald

Democratising access to medicine

Diarmaid McDonald

Project: Just Treatment

The goal of this project is to re-establish and expand healthcare as a common good.

“Big pharma lobbyists are comfortable demanding more taxpayer subsidies at the same time as denying taxpayer subsidies are a thing.”

The Big Idea

The pandemic has shown us that our healthcare systems are failing on multiple fronts. Pharmaceutical companies exploit patients, citizens and governments with artificially high drug prices. Intellectual property rules impede medical innovation, contribute to inequity, and exacerbate and extend our health crises. Profit-driven, privatised healthcare squeezes the public purse and funnels money upwards to an already-privileged few, while surveillance capitalists are delving into our medical histories.

Diarmaid is addressing these issues to re-establish the primacy of health as a global common good. With Just Treatment, he’s empowering affected people to take action and building the case for a more equitable, productive and open approach to healthcare. Through patient-led campaigns and compelling stories from real people, he is carving out a new space for widespread cultural debate to challenge the dominant narrative around intellectual property rules, privatised healthcare, and the threat of corporations owning our health data.

Why We Funded

Current intellectual property rules are inequitable and unjust and enable corporations to prioritise profits over people. It is a scandal that patients in developing and developed countries are denied access to medicines or priced out of life-saving treatments. These monopolies are responsible for untold levels of death and suffering, while the narrative around IP laws remains heavily in favour of the patent and profit model, and the pharma and tech industries are still shaping national and international policy.

Diarmaid is shifting the access to medicines debate into new territory. He is a highly experienced and effective campaigner who knows how to win popular and political support. Just Treatment will empower patients to be leaders and use relatable language and stories in mainstream media to resonate with everyday people. With a greater public understanding of this complex issue, we can start building a compelling case for an open, commons-centred approach to global healthcare in the future.

Diarmaid’s work focuses on:

  • Scaling Just Treatment and building on its work of training patient leaders in the UK, Europe and beyond.
  • Establishing solidarity networks amongst communities across borders to help identify where corporate and government power is blocking open policy responses to the pandemic.
  • Generating popular cultural debate on this issue and reaching audiences rarely exposed to these critical topics.