The Hiebert Lounge is on the 14th floor of the main building of Boston University’s Medical Campus. Despite being there every single day of the week, I’ve only stepped into that room twice. And somehow, those two times have yielded excellent usage of my time.
This past weekend, Boston University’s Center for Global Health and Development sponsored the BUSPH Pharmaceutical Program’s second Symposium, titled Innovation and Implementation: Bringing New Health Technologies to the Developing World.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve gotten the amazing experience of getting the feel of what it’s really like to be on a clinical development team for new medicines (specifically a new conjugate vaccine), going through each phase of clinical trials, the EOP Review Panel, Risk mitigation from adverse events, and the final Indication.
I saw the excitement of the symposium as an extension of this process. While it differed from the strictly academic setting from my seminar (the panelists did not get so technical as to describe immunologic interference or measuring IgG levels), they addressed the larger picture of the administration of new medicines to developing regions throughout the world.
Much of the emphasis was placed on reasons why certain markets weren’t attainable, due largely in part to the unfortunate decree of either a lack of funding and government interference. In some cases mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, the resources were such that some types of modern medication aren’t yet feasible until better infrastructure comes to light.
One caveat I had with the overall structure of the panel was the overemphasis on India as the up and coming market for Big Pharma (three of the five panelists were Indian or advocates for India’s interest), with an utter lack of address for the other um, GIGANTIC prospective Asian market, China. Professor Foster (who I’ve had the pleasure of attending past guest lectures on Medicines) raised the important question before I even had the chance, pointing out how well India seemed to be represented on the panel, asking: “but what about China?” citing several statistics indicating China as one of the unhealthiest countries in the world.
Only Das Narasimhan, Global Head of the Vaccines Department of Novartis had any experience in the region. He essentially explained that Chinese standard for pharmaceuticals was rapidly becoming on par with the FDA, instigating more strenuous safety protocols and increasing investment expenditure as compared to other developing countries.
With the Newsweek Spotlight on demonstrated need for medicines in China, and unequal access to Health Insurance off the press only a few days ago, the issue of new medicines and access to health technologies in the Middle Kingdom is sure to be a hot button issue.
I’ll be sure to look into it.☼