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"We all have a stake in this problem and its solution"

"We all have a stake in this problem and its solution" "We all have a stake in this problem and its solution" "We all have a stake in this problem and its solution"

Photographer:Fotograaf: UAEM

UAEM Maastricht organises Access to Medicines Week-activities

MAASTRICHT. "Don't use any phones please" quizmaster Tom Phillips says through his microphone. “Whoever uses a phone risks being disqualified”. Despite the cold and the rain, around one-hundred people, mainly students partook in a slightly different version of the usual Monday evening pub quiz at Peter’s Irish Pub.

A banner of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) at the entrance hints at the reason why; it’s Access to Medicines week. UAEM Maastricht has organised multiple activities throughout the week address this year’s theme: antimicrobial resistance. Former president of the Maastricht chapter, Victoria von Salmuth (27, sixth year medicine student) explains: “More bacteria, among which the ones causing tuberculosis and pneumonia are becoming resistant against antibiotics. At the same time, only a small amount of antibiotics that are invented is actually new. Most of them are new versions of a pre-existing antibiotic. The consequence of that is that the antibiotics we use are becoming a lot less effective. It’s a rising issue, everywhere in the world that’s expected to cost millions of lives within a few years. We want to make UM-students aware of this problem. A pub quiz seemed an accessible event to do just that. The proceeds of tonight’s pub quiz will be used for further promotion and activities such as lectures and debate nights.”

Those who feared that the evening would be filled with questions on resistant bacteria could sigh in relief. Questions such as “do you take antibiotics against a flu or cold” and “what was the first antibiotic and who is credited with its invention” are still outnumbered by the trivial questions that are the stuff of pub quizzes: Who are the female co-founders of Hogwarts, which three numbers follow twelve on a darts board, who wrote the Codex Leicester, and do ostriches only occur in the wild in Africa? After round one, quizmaster Phillips starts counting points, and the thirsty participants order another beer.

“We also want to draw attention to the overarching problem”, current president Hanna Schenck (21, master global health) adds during the break. “That is the profit-driven system of pharmaceutical research and development that hampers universal access to affordable medicines. UAEM pressures universities to act socially responsible when engaging in research and development of pharmaceuticals. Although only very few medicines are developed in Maastricht, the UM is also committed to socially responsible licensing.”

“One of the things that bind our members is that we all look beyond our own studies”, Von Salmuth says. “They come from very diverse fields of study: Medicine, health sciences, law, European studies, public policy. Our members will be doctors, policy makers and consumers, so we all have a stake in this problem and its solution.” 

For now, the goal is more modest: bringing this Access to Medicines week to a good end and find more members for the 2.5-year old student organisation. More events are following this week, such as a lecture by malaria expert Bart Knols at the Law faculty on Thursday evening.

Sjoerd Willen

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