To mark World Tuberculosis Day, young people from across the UK were dressed as giant pills and members of the pharmaceutical industry and pushed into a paddling pool outside parliament, to act out an alternative system for developing medicines that would prioritise human need over profit.
The stunt, organised by the Students Stop AIDS campaign, aims to highlight how the current profit-driven system for developing medicines is failing the world’s poorest people. They are calling on the UK government to commit to trialing a new model for developing medicines, so that diseases like Tuberculosis, which kills 1.5 million people every year, 95% of whom live in the world’s poorest countries, are prioritised to receive similar investment as non-deadly ailments such as hay fever and male pattern baldness.
The campaign, which is powered by youth-led charity Restless Development, has already gathered more than 500 signatures in three weeks in support of the campaign and aims to reach 1000 when they meet Ministers from the Department for International Development in May.
ALTERNATIVE MODEL – ‘PUSH, PULL, POOL’
Developed by Médecins Sans Frontières, a member of the Stop Aids campaign, the ‘Push, Pull, Pool’ model aims to create a needs-driven system for researching and developing medicines:
Push governments to offer grant funding for new research into areas such as Tuberculosis or HIV paediatrics
Pull in pharmaceutical companies by creating prize funds to reward researchers to incentivise the R&D process
Pool the results - use an open research approach so researchers can share their work, learn from each other’s mistakes and ensure fair licensing to guarantee competitive pricing of the final product.
It’s a grave injustice when medical research is prioritised according to profit, not people. In the last 50 years we've had two new drugs for TB, but 14 new treatments developed for hay fever. Hay fever may be problem, but it doesn’t kill millions of people every year. The consequences are fatal for the world’s poorest people, whose health needs are being sidelined. We need the government to level the playing field to ensure some of the world’s most deadly diseases get the research and investment they need, and so that those people that desperately need treatments can access them.
SAOIRSE FITZPATRICK, CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, STUDENT STOP AIDS CAMPAIGN
MISSING MEDICINES CAMPAIGN
The stunt is part of the Missing Medicines campaign, run by campaign group STOPAIDS - a network of 80 UK agencies - including the student branch Student STOP AIDS - working since 1986 to secure an effective global response to HIV and AIDS.