Sharon Batt

Sharon Batt

PhD Recipient

Dalhousie University

Research Description

Research conducted in affluent Western countries shows that many patient-run groups are now funded to some degree by the pharmaceutical industry, raising concerns outside these organizations about whether the groups can truly represent patients’ interests on issues of pharmaceutical and health policy. I examined the rise of patient-run breast cancer groups in Canada and their transformation over two decades from small, local, autonomous organizations to an intricate network of groups, many of which receive “pharma funding.” Because the groups developed in tandem with debates over costly treatments that the sponsoring companies were bringing to market, critics in the health policy arena and the media have questioned these alliances on ethical grounds. I wanted to know how, as their groups evolved, the women active in breast cancer organizations interpreted their alliances with the pharmaceutical industry. I chose to study groups that organized around one particular disease, and whose hopes were focused on a particular set of drugs, in order to illuminate how the decision-makers within the groups viewed policies affecting drug approvals, insurance coverage of drugs, drug prices, and drug promotion. Policy never takes place in a political vacuum; an underlying question in my research, therefore, is how the enormous transformations in Canada’s political landscape, brought by successive neoliberal and neoconservative governments since circa 1980, have shaped the course of the patient advocacy movement. Most importantly, my work is designed to effect social change. Do the groups’ interventions in drug policy serve the public interest? If not, what can be done? 

Awards/Recognition

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Fellowship in Research Ethics and Health Policy (2003-8)
Canadian Environmental Award, Silver Award in Environmental Health (2005)
Elizabeth May Chair in Women's Health and Environment, Dalhousie University (2001-03)
Nancy's Chair in Women's Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University (1991-2001)
Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Laura Jamieson Award (1995)