For readers of Bad Blood and Empire of Pain, an authoritative look at monopoly medicine from the dawn of patents through the race for COVID-19 vaccines and how the privatization of public science has prioritized profits over people Owning the Sun tells the story of one of the most contentious fights in human history: the legal right to produce lifesaving medicines. Medical science began as a discipline geared toward the betterment of all human life, but the merging of research with intellectual property and the rise of the pharmaceutical industry warped and eventually undermined its ethical foundations. Since World War II, federally funded research has facilitated most major medical breakthroughs, yet these drugs are often wholly controlled by price-gouging corporations with growing international ambitions. Why does the U.S. government fund the development of medical science in the name of the public only to relinquish exclusive rights to drug companies, and how does such a system impoverish us, weaken our responses to crises, and, as in the cases of AIDS and COVID-19, put the world at risk?
Outlining how generations of public health and science advocates have attempted to hold the line against Big Pharma and their allies in government, Alexander Zaitchik’s first-of-its-kind history documents the rise of privatized medicine in the United States and its subsequent globalization. From the controversial arrival of patent-wielding German drug firms in the late nineteenth century to present-day coordination between industry and philanthropic organizations—including the influential Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—that stymie international efforts to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, Owning the Sun tells one of the most important and least understood histories of our time.