Shareholders in seven of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies have filed proposals demanding the drug companies disclose information about patents that the shareholders say pose risks to human rights, the shareholders announced.

The investors in the proxy proposals said on Thursday that they want information that would help them understand the impacts of company policies on patients’ access to their branded medicines.

The shareholders are members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, who have made increasing access to medicines a focus for corporate engagements with the pharma sector. In their proposals, the investors point to several studies, including an analysis by the Rand Corporation, which concluded that U.S. prices for branded drugs were nearly 3.5 times higher than prices in 32 other OECD (Countries/Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development) entities.

The Interfaith Center submitted the proposals to AbbVie, Ely Lily, Gilead, Johnson& Johnson, Merck and Pfizer. The prices of brand name drugs are kept artificially high through patent extensions, the shareholders said.

“There is a big difference between the legitimate use of patents designed to protect the rights of the maker of an innovative medicine and the misuse of the patent system to delay the introduction of generic drugs, which allows the name-brand drug companies to increase the prices of existing drugs,” Cathy Rowan of Trinity Health, who led the filings with Pfizer and Eli Lilly, said in a statement. “It is shameful that in our wealthy country one in three people say they do not take their medicines as prescribed due to costs. We need to see how pharma companies are taking access concerns into account when they seek additional patents on their drugs.”

Three additional proposals seek to understand whether the business model of the pharma companies may pose human rights risks.

Shareholders filed additional proposals requesting a human rights policy be developed Bristol Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly.