This paper analyses a remarkable transformation of global capitalism in recent years: that corporations claim to be 'good citizens' and are driven by higher aspirations than profits alone. It focuses on the lawsuit brought by the drug company Novartis against the Indian government over the patent for the anti-cancer drug Glivec. Novartis' attack on Indian patent law caused an international outcry. Opponents of Novartis argued that the company was trying to destroy essential provisions in the Indian law that keep drugs affordable even after the country signed up to the World Trade Organization's agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). With reference to 'the constitutional obligation of providing good health care to its citizens', the High Court in Chennai, India, dismissed Novartis' challenge in August 2007. While health activists celebrated the court's decision as a victory for anti-corporate citizens, this article argues that Novartis won a more important battle elsewhere: to protect its profits in European and North American markets. The article shows how claims to 'citizenship' were mobilized by both anti-Novartis and pro-Novartis groups, and how Novartis' global corporate citizenship programme succeeded even when it seemed to fail.
Biosocieties, 3 (2) 165-181 [doi:10.1017/S1745855208006091]