New Berkman Center initiative, Global Access in Action, hosts inaugural workshop on access to medicines in developing countries

August 01, 2014

Cambridge, MA- Global Access in Action (GAiA), a new initiative of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, is hosting a workshop today to assess promising but understudied strategies for increasing access to high-quality medicines in the world’s poorest countries. Approximately 45 participants from the pharmaceutical industry, government, international procurement and donor agencies, civil society, and academia will be in attendance.

The workshop will explore best practices for increasing access to pharmaceutical products in the developing world, with particular emphasis on intra-country price discrimination, a strategy designed to make it possible for pharmaceutical companies simultaneously to market to affluent and impoverished populations at different price points in the same geographic area. Humanitarian licensing strategies – such as innovative partnership arrangements between innovative companies and generics – to market and distribute drugs in poor countries will also be discussed.

“We are excited to welcome participants from industry, government, civil society, and academia – all of whom have valuable insights to contribute concerning what works and what doesn’t in providing access to medicines,” said William Fisher, Berkman Center faculty director and WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law at Harvard Law School.

“Never before in human history have we had so many medical advances to improve human health, and access for all people to these advances is vital not just to human welfare but to justice,” said Martha Minow, Dean of Harvard Law School. “By bridging fields and perspectives, this workshop offers an opportunity to develop workable approaches toward realizing the promise of this moment.”

“We recognize that participants will come into the workshop with diverse viewpoints about what additional steps can be taken by whom,” added Mark Wu, Berkman Center faculty director and an Assistant Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. “We hope to provide a space in which participants can better understand the limitations that different actors face and work collectively toward forging solutions.”

Global Access in Action explores laws and policies that govern innovation and commercialization of technologies for the poor. The project aims to develop pragmatic solutions to difficult problems that have tangible impact on the lives of the world’s poorest populations.

“Our goal is to develop pragmatic solutions that have a real-world impact in terms of strategies for getting lifesaving medicines to those who need them most,” said Quentin Palfrey, one of the co-founders of Global Access in Action who works as a lawyer at WilmerHale.

In addition to Access to Medicines, Global Access in Action also focuses on alternative mechanisms for incentivizing optimal levels of research and development into neglected tropical diseases and other problems that afflict the poor; improving access to seeds and other agricultural products that can help alleviate hunger; and promoting trade policies that appropriately balance commercial and humanitarian objectives. Global Access in Action was originally incubated by the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on the Intellectual Property System, under the leadership of Berkman Fellow Sara Boettiger.

For news and developments about Global Access in Action, please visit cyber.law.harvard.edu/research/globalaccessinaction. The fruits of the workshop on Access to Medicines will be made available there. If you wish to get in touch with the GAiA team, please email Nathaniel Levy <nlevy@cyber.law.harvard.edu>.

About the Berkman Center

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is a research program founded to explore cyberspace, share in its study, and help pioneer its development. Founded in 1997, through a generous gift from Jack N. and Lillian R. Berkman, the Center is home to an ever-growing community of faculty, fellows, staff, and affiliates working on projects that span the broad range of intersections between cyberspace, technology, and society. More information can be found at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu.

Last updated August 12, 2014

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