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A blog about Global Health. An open space for discussing equitable access to health for everyone, everywhere.

Access to Health Innovation, Discussing Current and Future Solutions

Access to Health Innovation, Discussing Current and Future Solutions

What if you had to take the one medicine that keeps you alive and costs over $1000 a pill?

Choosing your smartphone may be a matter of budget, newness, functionality or ‘what’s cool now’. You may have enough money to buy the latest smartphone with the latest functionalities and its personalized case. Or you may not, and then you’ll buy a cell phone which will work just fine, but may not be as trendy and noticeable as you expected. The expensive, luxurious smartphone that is over $600 is not essential to survive. But what if you had to take the one medicine that keeps you alive and costs over $1000 a pill?

Medicines are a complex product. Drug development is an expensive and risky process, which ends up in failure with the majority of molecules tested by researchers all over the world, with very few resulting in a real innovation that changes the course of medicine and patients’ lives. The relationship between innovation and its products ­medicines and healthcare technologies ­with healthcare systems and ultimately access and impact on health is the core of the upcoming Global Health Summer School, taking place in Barcelona in July 2017. ISGlobal and the Students’ Association of Health Sciences (Associació d'Estudiants de Ciències de la Salut), in partnership with IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations), are hosting this unique learning opportunity in Barcelona.

The relationship between innovation (...) and ultimately access and impact on health is the core of the upcoming Global Health Summer School

The course will start with a lecture by Hans Hogerzeil, a global health professor at the University of Gröningen and member of the Lancet Commission on Essential Medicines, setting the foundations of the this 2017 edition of the Barcelona Global Health Summer School. Students will have the opportunity to learn and exchange experiences during this 5­day course. This year’s novelty is the introduction of ‘Participant Project Development’ sessions every day, where students will create their own project on a specific issue around innovation and access to healthcare technologies. Lectures by renowned global health experts and academics will be followed by the Participant Project Development sessions, providing the opportunity to practice key concepts and strengthen personal and group abilities.

On the first session, Adrián Alonso and José Cerezo, both students from the Barcelona Master of Global Health, will share with us two case studies on access to healthcare innovation, to inspire participants throughout the week.

As we were saying, medicines are not smartphones, yet they fall under the same rules as smartphones, cars or music when it comes to intellectual property rights: patent owners have exclusivity rights and determine prices. Newly approved medicines tend to have higher prices, which may not be a problem in high­ income countries, but are out of reach in low and middle income countries. Clarke Cole (Access to Medicines Foundation) has been invited as a guest speaker, to enlighten participants on effective tools to measure access to treatment, and their implications.

Limited access to treatment is now a problem that affects high­-income countries

Limited access to treatment is now a problem that affects high­-income countries: high­-priced medicines are threatening the sustainability of healthcare systems, who face rationing or increased pharmaceutical debt in order to make treatments accessible. During the course, Natàlia Pasqual (UPF Barcelona School of Management) will explore drug pricing and reimbursement models across the globe, and the challenges encountered.

Are there ways to develop medicines that are both reasonably profitable for pharmaceutical companies but that are not a barrier to access? The session by Elena Villanueva, a global health advocate, will be critical to understand the current research and development (R&D) model­, its flaws, its limitations, its successes ­and its alternatives. Furthermore, Carolina Bolaños will give us her insight on Public­ Private Partnerships (PPP), initiatives both praised and criticized. Trade agreements are also controversial contracts between stakeholders, countries or regions, which may affect healthcare, especially medicines, as Jaume Vidal will explain. Students are welcome to bring in their own knowledge and background on biomedical R&D initiatives and, why not, work on it during their Participant Project Development.

Are there ways to develop medicines that are both reasonably profitable for pharmaceutical companies but that are not a barrier to access?

The course analyzes in depth the complexity of biomedical R&D, including relevant elements on access to medicines in various environments and the role of healthcare systems. Their impact on health ­and ultimately the state of welfare ­has generated an increasing demand from civil society to governments to ensure that research and development results in affordable medicines. Back in the 1990s, lack of access to HIV medicines triggered what some now call the “access to medicines movement”. This course includes a session on advocacy and activism, conducted by Irene Bernal (Right to Health Foundation), focusing on advocacy for a new R&D model. We hope this will foster an interesting debate among students, including sociology, history, and even innovative thinking.

Hopefully, students will leave Barcelona with a meaningful understanding of how access and innovation in healthcare are intertwined and how they impact on health

The closure of the course includes a public hearing of the Participant Projects: the perfect conclusion for the Global Health Summer School and perhaps the beginning of new networks, collaborations and friendships. Hopefully, students will leave Barcelona with a meaningful understanding of how access and innovation in healthcare are intertwined and how they impact on health.

More information

Barcelona Global Health Summer School 2017: Innovation, Access & Health



Nota: Las personas que integran ISGlobal persiguen ideas innovadoras con total independencia. Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son, por tanto, a título personal y no necesariamente reflejan el posicionamiento institucional.

Irene Romero

Barcelona Global Health Summer School 2017 Organizing Committee

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