Universities Allied for Essential Medicines

Op-Ed in the Guardian: “Put humanity first when it comes to research”

The following op-ed was published in the UCSD Guardian student newspaper on November 29, 2010:

Dear Editor,

UC San Diego’s motto is “Local Impact, National Influence, Global Reach.” UCSD undoubtedly has a significant
impact on the local economy and influences national discourse in many areas of study. But how far across the globe do the innovations and technologies created at UCSD reach? The answer is: not far enough.

UCSD has not made a concerted effort to ensure many of the university’s groundbreaking research discoveries will reach those in most desperate need of its innovations. If a scientist in the UCSD School of Medicine developed a breakthrough HIV/AIDS treatment, it would be licensed to a pharmaceutical company for clinical testing and manufacture. There is no policy at UCSD that would require that company to sell the HIV/AIDS drug at a price that patients in the developing world could afford, or allow another company to produce it generically at a lower cost for these patients. There is no assurance that this drug developed at UCSD would reach patients in the poorest parts of the globe.

To live up to its motto, UCSD should commit to making its innovations available and affordable to millions worldwide. Dec. 1 is World AIDS Day, when we are reminded of the 33.3 million people living with HIV today — 15
million of whom need immediate treatment. Only one third of these people will actually be able to access life-saving drugs. This means that 10 million people will die in the next three to four years not because treatment doesn’t exist, but because the drugs are not affordable. Many of these medicines were initially discovered in university laboratories funded by federal tax dollars. For example, UC San Francisco owns the patent for Fuzeon, a critical last-line drug used to extend the lives of patients when other therapies have failed. Without a global
policy firmly in place, no provisions were made to ensure global reach and patients continue to be denied access.

UCSD’s administrators have yet to take action. Recently, more than 20 other institutions including Harvard,
Yale, University of Pennsylvania and Duke signed onto a collective set of principles and strategies to ensure the
“equitable dissemination of medical technologies” that originate on their campuses. Even the National Institutes
of Health and the Centers for Disease Control are in support of this policy.

To maintain its place as one of the top universities, UCSD must join their colleagues in endorsing the collective
document and push for more effective policies ensuring global access to university-developed innovations. Until
then, potential medicines will continue to be signed over by UCSD to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies
with no commitment to addressing this access to medicines crisis.

The time for UCSD to act is now. The administration has been made aware of this issue for more than two years now; continuing to delay any action is not acceptable when potentially millions of lives are at risk. UCSD has the power and ability to fulfill its motto and significantly expand its global reach; all that is needed is the courage to act upon it.

— Taylor Gilliland
Doctoral Candidate, Biomedical Sciences UCSD


February 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment