Addressing deep-rooted inequities in access to medicine

 Nine months into the pandemic, we have 6.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. alone. As conversation swirls about the coming vaccine, we tapped Ashoka Fellow Priti Krishtel for insights.

A social entrepreneur and lawyer, Priti started I-MAK to help make life-saving medicines accessible to all. She does this by advocating for patent system reforms and corporate incentives that drive affordability, and increasing oversight, transparency, and public participation. As she reminds us, U.S. taxpayers fund medical research to the tune of billions and should get a say in how that research is used.

Ashoka’s Manmeet Mehta spoke with Priti this week. Here are a few highlights:

Why patents matter

Why are drug prices so high, out of reach of many patients in need? The answer has a lot of layers, and requires getting into the weeds of our patent system. I-MAK investigates why drug patents have proliferated in recent years and how to course correct, so that patents drive invention and access, not higher prices. We asked Priti to start by spelling out: What is a patent?


Global equity and the vaccine

A scarcity mindset harms us all, says Priti. We need to invest in the manufacturing capacity of countries less able to afford vaccines and open up medical knowledge to spur invention and collaboration. Otherwise, billions of people will be at the mercy of high-income countries and their priorities.



Racial disparities, past and present

Structural racism is baked into the medicines system, says Priti. It affects what diseases are prioritized for research, how clinical trials are conducted, and much more. Here she shares why trust with Black and brown communities must be earned, and our opportunity to prioritize public health over profits.


What needs to happen next

This won’t be our last pandemic. What if we see the Covid vaccine not as a “one stop solution” but an opportunity to fix historic failures in medicines access — and imagine a better way forward. Here’s Priti on what’s needed to animate and advance the access to medicine movement:



Read more here and watch the full conversation here. Also, Priti gave a TED Talk last year and you can watch that here. On Twitter, follow along: @pritikrishtel and @I-MAKGlobal



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