Access to Medicine Week
MAASTRICHT. Make medicines for people, not for profit. That is the message from Universities Allied for Essential Medicine (UAEM), the worldwide organisation that also has a Maastricht department. For next week, these students have organised Access to Medicine (A2M) Week.
Transparency is a key word in the A2M Week to come. Transparency with regard to expenses made by pharmaceutical companies for research and development (R&D), and the research itself. “Pharmaceutical companies often charge tremendously high R&D costs, sometimes even 820 times the production cost of the medicine. They are focussed too much on profit. We want to make people aware of that and at the same time change this system,” says Saeed Banaama, board member of UAEM Maastricht.
There is another point upon which UAEM wants to focus attention. Many medicines have been developed by the industry on the basis of knowledge provided by universities. They are mass-produced and subsequently sold, at high prices, to the consumer. “In fact, citizens pay double for these medicines: after all, university research is financed with their tax money, and then they also pay too much money for the medicine itself. That is not fair. We want public return for public investment,” says Victoria von Salmuth, former chairperson of UAEM Maastricht.
Von Salmuth and Banaama feel that universities could play a great role in making all of this fairer. “To which manufacturer do they sell their knowledge? They can be very critical at that moment,” Von Salmuth explains. In addition, universities could license their patents instead of selling them, she continues. In this way, they would maintain control over their product: for example, they could demand that the price stays under a certain amount.
UAEM has come up with six principles that should form the basis of an R&D system that is centred around people rather than profit.Two years ago, Maastricht University was the first Dutch university that signed the Socially Responsibible Research and Licensing (SRRL) policy. Von Salmuth hopes that the UM will also be the first one to sign the new Global Charter for the Advancement of Equitable Biomedical Research and Development.
A range of events have been organised in the week of 6 November. On Monday evening, there is a pub quiz at Peter's Irish pub, in which some of the questions will be about transparent research. Mark Post, the Maastricht professor who produced the cultivated hamburger, will give a lecture on Wednesday evening about how this burger has changed the world. Lastly, the week will be brought to a close Thursday evening with a party at De Kazemat Feestlocatie & Bar.
For more information about A2M Week, see Facebook