How pharmaceutical and diagnostic stakeholders construct policy solutions to a public health ‘crisis’: an analysis of submissions to a United Kingdom House of Commons inquiry into antimicrobial resistance
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is often characterised as a ‘crisis’, requiring action by public, private, and third-sector stakeholders to achieve strategic change. Crisis narratives are powerful and may be co-opted to privilege solutions promoted by influential groups. In relation to AMR, this applies particularly to the pharmaceutical and medical diagnostics industries. Given the associated risk of inefficient use of public funds, critical attention must be paid to how the promoted ‘solutions’ to the AMR crisis are constructed, and their symbolic and material effects on health policy. We conducted a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the seventy-one written submissions to the UK House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee’s 2018 inquiry into AMR. Two researchers collaboratively coded the findings and categorised the submissions. We applied the Policy Dystopia Model to further analyse the proposed solutions and ascertain the discursive and instrumental arguments in the industry submissions to the Committee. We found that industry submissions deployed economic and governance discursive strategies, articulating three main ‘market paradoxical’ arguments: (i) interference but non-interference; (ii) power but powerlessness; and (iii) for-profit but not-for-profit. The industry submissions also drew upon instrumental strategies including: coalition management, information management, and direct involvement and influence in policymaking. Our analysis suggests that commercial interests deploy crisis narratives to advocate for solutions involving market deregulation and industry subsidies. Thus, the solutions presented to the Committee were heavily shaped by a technocratic-industrial complex. This contributes to influencing what is seen as possible and acceptable in the global AMR policy landscape.