Mapping buyer's clubs; what role do they play in achieving equitable access to medicines?

N. Rhodes*, R. van de Pas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Buyer's clubs were first recognised during the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and focussed on knowledge curation and distribution of treatments. In the past decade, there has been a resurgence of buyer's clubs, mostly focussed on hepatitis C treatment and PrEP. This paper aims to increase understanding of buyer's clubs and stimulate discussion on their role in achieving equitable access to medicines. Our proposed definition of a buyer's club is 'a community-led organisation or group which seeks to improve an individual's access to medication through knowledge sharing and/or distribution as its primary goal'. The logistical and relational infrastructures of buyer's clubs have been mapped out. Networks and communities are integral to buyer's clubs by facilitating practical aspects of buyer's clubs and creating a sense of community that serves as a foundation of trust. For a user to receive necessary medical support, doctors play a crucial role, yet, obtaining this support is difficult. Whilst buyer's clubs are estimated to have enabled thousands of people to access medicines, and they run the risk of perpetuating health inequities and injustices. They may have the potential to serve as a health activism tool to stimulate sustainable changes; however, this needs to be explored further.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1842-1853
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number9
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2022


  • Buyer's clubs
  • access to medicines
  • distributive justice
  • health activism
  • medicine importation


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