(From Terry talks, November 22, 2008)
All lives, no matter where they are lived, have equal value. Yet access to life-saving drugs is most often limited to those who can pay for them. Also, treatments for many tropical diseases are either unavailable or are increasingly ineffective, with toxic side effects to boot. Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (ubc-uaem.org) is a student organization dedicated to fixing this broken system.
We work by changing how universities set their technology licensing priorities and their research agendas. At UBC, we’ve persuaded administration to publicly adopt a set of Global Access Principles (www.uilo.ubc.ca/global.asp) that are a first-in-Canada, courageous start to making medicines available to everyone regardless of their income. But we can do more. With the help of UBC students, we want to reach every faculty member whose research can benefit the world’s poor. We want to expand UAEM to all major research universities in Canada. We must also ensure that UBC stays true to its commitments.
I’ll talk about strategies for getting this done, give insights into the drug development process and the bizarre world of intellectual property (fun stuff!) and highlight the contributions UAEM has made at UBC – encapsulated by the story of a new drug developed right here – oral Amphotericin B. This drug will treat the disfiguring and lethal disease leishmaniasis that affects tens of millions of people around the globe, and is free of the toxic side effects of previous formulations of the drug. Oral Amp B will be developed and made available at cost to people in low and middle income countries. UBC students will see how a great idea (universities changing access to drugs through licensing agreements) combined with dedicated student activism creates real change in the world.