Nov 2022: MacArthur, Growing Momentum, and Much More

29 Nov 2022

A few weeks ago, I was named a 2022 MacArthur Fellow. This award, coupled with the outpouring of well wishes we’ve received since the announcement, affirms that our movement is going to transform the outdated patent system to ensure life-saving medicine is affordable and accessible to everyone who needs it.

As I noted to NPR NewsBloomberg, and the New York Times, for the MacArthur Foundation to signal that there is a new architecture for activism being built through drug patent reform is validation of the work being done by the entire transnational access-to-medicines movement. Let’s keep our momentum going.


What we’re doing

Coverage continues on our latest report Overpatented, Overpriced: 2022, as covered in Kaiser Health NewsHill Daily, and NPR News. In a clear sign that the industry itself sees the building energy around patent reform, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) responded to our report in an attempt to defend their abusive patenting practices.

In another sign of growing momentum, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) continues to heed the many calls from patients, civil society, academics, industry experts, and lawmakers to consider the harmful effects of overpatenting. This month the agency issued a Request for Comments, due in January, on potential actions to help ensure that patents do not unjustifiably delay generic drug and biosimilar competition.

As psychedelic medicine grows closer to becoming a reality for patients awaiting treatment, some eagle-eyed observers (like the reporter Shayla Love and the New York Times) are starting to pay attention to the industry’s burgeoning overpatenting problem. I recently spoke with Michael Pollan’s The Microdose newsletter about what we can do about the overpatenting of psychedelics to ensure these treatments are accessible & affordable.

Relevant news rundown

Kaiser Health News published an enraging story about a cancer drug invented in 1973 that currently costs $38,398 for a single shot. As KHN says, it’s yet another example of “unrelenting price increases on old drugs that have remained branded as manufacturers find ways to extend patents for decades.”

A favorite pharmaceutical industry justification for high drug prices is the need to cover R&D costs. A new report dispelled that talking point, looking at the 60 drugs the FDA approved between 2009 and 2018 and finding no correlation between R&D spending and prices. My Co-ED Tahir spoke to Wired about the findings, emphasizing that governments need to be doing investigative work around transparency issues like R&D spending and patent manipulation. He asks, “how are they setting policy when they do not have this information?”

According to a new Annals of Internal Medicine report, nearly 1 in 5 American adults (that’s 1.3 million people) ration their insulin. Devastatingly, that number is 7.2% higher among Black insulin users than it is among white and Hispanic users. We live in a hierarchy of health and it’s time to change that.

Something hopeful


In any movement for change, learning from your peoples’ collective knowledge and experiences is essential. My Co-ED Tahir just participated in the Health and Human Rights Oral History Project, a growing archive of hours-long interviews conducted by the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health.

The collection is a resource for movement newcomers and veterans alike and an occasion to not just celebrate the wins we’ve fought for but also take stock of how much more work we have to do.

Partner with us now to build
a more just and equitable
medicine system for all.