Meet the Activist: Leena Menghaney

Meet Leena Menghaney who works for the Access Campaign in India.
The patent status of drugs in India, where a vast number of generic medicines are produced, can be critical in determining whether they are available elsewhere in the world or not. A lawyer by training, Leena worked on the campaign to ensure that India's new patent law included public health safeguards to limit the impact of patents on access to affordable medicines. She then fought alongside local activists to defend these safeguards, when the drug company Novartis sought to have them overturned. She continues to fight for access to a number of Indian generic medicines.
“I think the biggest challenge in our work is to demystify how patent monopolies work. I think often people don't understand why a drug is expensive. They just assume that the drug costs a lot to manufacture. Whereas in fact it is the monopoly protection afforded to companies by patents that allows them to get away with charging very high prices. Getting this across to people and policiticans to mobilise them takes a huge effort. We were successful finally because we worked in partnership and coalition with the very strong and influential activist groups here.
I think MSF can bring a lot of international attention to some of these issues at a global level, which make governments rethink what they're really doing. You need a democratic process and pressure from civil society to make governments accountable but if the world doesn't pay attention, governments can get away with murder.”
Page updated: 26 July 2007
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