From July 19-21, activists from across the globe gathered in Istanbul for the second edition of the Global Summit on Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines (GSIPA2M). This event is a biennial gathering organized by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) and Make Medicines Affordable consortium to hold critical debates and discussions on ensuring that intellectual property rights don’t undermine equitable access to lifesaving medicines. At the summit, one thing became crystal clear: the challenges of the Access to Medicines (A2M) movement are diverse and enormous. They include Big Pharma’s unstoppable greed and influence over governments, multi-stakeholder initiatives usurping the role of UN institutions, and insufficiency of national-level laws and institutions.
COVID-19 cases persist all over the world, causing special concern in regions where vaccination rates are low due to inequities in access to vaccines. As the pandemic continues, analyses of the global response continue to point out the dangers of the predominant multi-stakeholder driven campaigns. One of the latest in line of such analyses is a report published by Transnational Institute and Friends of the Earth International in July. It zooms into how transnational corporations (TNCs) seized the opportunity to gain more power over international institutions and expand markets during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the launch of the report, Lauren Paremoer from the People’s Health Movement underlined that the capture of the multilateral system by TNCs and private philanthropies was already underway before the pandemic, but the extraordinary circumstances led to an unanticipated expansion.
Nakani is a word that comes from the Tlingit language. Nakani is defined as a person, or entity, which serves as a connector and/ or go between for different people, places, and cultures. This is the role each member of Nakani’s Native Program tries to embody as they help bring together all tribal communities to learn from and about one another. This word is a perfect descriptor for its members and leadership. This description is also a perfect introduction to each of the members I interviewed for this article. Nakani Native Program has undergone many changes since it began as an offshoot of American Friends Service Committee, AFSC. AFSC, is a non-profit Quaker organization founded by the Religious Society of Friends.
Far too many people have suffered and died because our medicines and medical products system was not prepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with prompt and universal access to reliable tests, treatments, and vaccines. Governments, non-profits, and industry in the U.S. and around the world are working furiously to catch up. But their efforts have been hampered by fundamental flaws in our profit-driven pharmaceutical industry. For Americans with diabetes, cancer, asthma, infectious diseases, mental illnesses, and a myriad of other health issues, those flaws have been causing suffering and even death for decades.
Cheryl Morales started the medicinal garden at the Aaniiih Nakoda College’s demonstration farm in 2010 with only four plants: yarrow, echinacea, plantain and liquorice root. After 10 years, the garden has expanded to hold more than 60 plants. The six raised garden beds, a garden wheel and a greenhouse make up almost 30,000 square feet. Almost all of her plants also grow naturally in the mountains, valleys and river banks on the Fort Belknap Reservation in northern Montana. The plants have also been used for generations as medicines to treat a wide variety of symptoms: echinacea is used to help boost the immune system, protecting healthy cells; valerian is a strong sedative that can address nervousness, tension and stress; liquorice root is an antihistamine, which treats allergy symptoms.
The grave risks and dangers in the process of worldwide out-sourcing and so-called globalization of the past 30 years or so are becoming starkly clear as the ongoing health emergency across China threatens vital world supply chains from China to the rest of the world. While much attention is focused on the risks to smartphone components or auto manufacture via supplies of key parts from China or to the breakdown of oil deliveries in the last weeks...