Access to Medicines: the 21st-century Global Health Challenge

Tuesday 01/22/2019
Conference room at 12:00 pm

Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society

Some 2 billion people worldwide do not have access to medicines. It is estimated that 3.6 million people died in 2016 because they had no access to health care and 5 million people died, despite having access to health care, because the quality of care they received was poor. In the US, 8% of adult Americans do not take their medicines as prescribed because they cannot afford them. While the use of technology and artificial intelligence is gaining speed in drug discovery and development, the cost of medicines is still prohibitive to most. Ashveena Gajeelee talked about the mission set by the GAiA team to incentivize pharmaceutical companies to improve access to medicines.

During a lunch talk at the Berkman Klein Center, Ashveena Gajeelee, Research Fellow at GAiA, discussed GAiA ongoing projects and the challenges faced in access to medicines for the poor. She explained that resilient and sustainable health systems are critical for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The primary objective of the GAiA team was to reduce the prices of available treatments for high-priority diseases; reduce long-term morbidity and mortality rates for communicable diseases; and reduce treatment failure arising from falsified and substandard medicines.

Ashveena Gajeelee gave an overview of the progress made in global health and stressed the need to maintain the investment and resources in fighting HIV, Malaria, maternal mortality to decrease the global burden of disease. She explained that main barriers to access include: lack of basic health requirements such as safe water and sanitation, poverty, conflicts and wars, absence of good governance; IP laws, import tariffs, tax and trade laws, the fact that pharmaceutical companies develop drugs which focuse on the disease areas of the developed countries and lack of innovation-friendly business environment. Participants also discussed how access to medicines would evolve in the 21st Century.

To the question posed by Ashveena Gajeelee, will Artificial Intelligence bring down the cost of medicines and improve access to medicines in the future, participants debated the implications of using robots in selecting new drug development pathway and improving the efficiency of clinical trials.


About the Speaker

Ashveena Gajeelee is a public policy specialist with experience in government, regulatory affairs and negotiation. Ashveena supports GAiA’s action-oriented research which focuses on global public health challenges facing the world’s most vulnerable populations. Ashveena has worked in several governmental ministries in her home country of Mauritius including Agriculture, Prime Minister’s Office and Environment.  She was most recently the advisor to the Minister of Finance and Economic Development. She has a strong research interest in how regulatory policy impact access to medicine, artificial intelligence and pandemic preparedness. Ashveena holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Biochemistry at Rhodes University, an MBA from the University of Mauritius, an MPA from l’Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), France and a dual master from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government (MPA) and the Graduate Institute of Geneva (International Affairs).


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