On Tuesday, October 31st, Ashveena Gajeelee, a research fellow at Global Access in Action (GAiA) presented GAiA’s ongoing projects that seek to expand access to lifesaving medicines in the world’s most vulnerable populations. In addition to research on best practices for pricing policies and alternative R&D incentive structures in the pharmaceutical industry, GAiA is working on international policies related to pandemic preparedness in collaboration with Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO. In an effort to expand access to quality-assured medicines in sub-Saharan Africa, GAiA is assisting several African governments in implementing a multifaceted pilot program in sub-Saharan Africa, providing technical advice to local governments on public health-sensitive legal, policy, and regulatory reform. As part of this program, GAiA is working with Global Good to demonstrate a new falsified drug detection technology that, in conjunction with other complementary drug quality monitoring systems, can help to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with treatment failure from the use of falsified medicines.
To the Berkman group of internet security, artificial intelligence and global health experts, Gajeelee posed the question, “What does access to medicines look like in 2035?” This sparked a stimulating discussion among the research fellows about the intersection between technology and health in the coming decades. Fellows suggested, in countries that have wide cellular networks, technology can help to map networks of health workers and knowledgeable local persons. These reliable and trusted networks of local people could then act as hubs for information sharing in the middle of pandemics. Access to information and education programs at crucial points in time might be impactful. There were also discussions on the importance of understanding local contexts, and the way technologies are used in these limited-resource settings. Cutting-edge technologies, no matter how innovative they are, may fail, if they are not accepted by the local people or are not applicable in the local context. Other key suggestions that resulted from the hour-long discussion are the needs for more WHO diagnostic labs in sub-Saharan Africa, and importance of understanding social determinants of health alongside access barriers to medicines. One key issue that was emphasized throughout the discussion is the deployment of modern technology in an ethical manner to ensure world’s most vulnerable populations are not exploited by commercial interest.
Ashveena Gajeelee is a research fellow at Global Access in Action (GAiA). She specializes in public policy and is experienced in government and regulatory affairs.