Merith Basey merith at essentialmedicine.org
Wed Mar 13 07:55:53 PDT 2019

Students to University of California Board of Regents: Put patients over
profits, drop the patent case.

Activists demand their university stop backing Big Pharma at the expense of
patients in India

March 13th, LOS ANGELES, CA - This morning, students across the University
of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) campus demonstrated at the Board of
Regents meeting with signs and chants asking the university to drop its
patent claim on a life-saving UC developed cancer drug that would bar
affordable access to this life-saving drug worldwide.

The demonstration was part of a campaign led by student activists from
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and the American Medical
Student Association (AMSA)  to urge the institution to drop a patent claim
filed by UCLA in the Indian High Court for Enzalutamide, also known by its
Brand-Name ‘Xtandi’.

Students have attended and testified at multiple Board of Regents meetings
across the state since May 2017, including delivering a petition to UC
President Janet Napolitano with 3500 signatures
urging her leadership in dropping the lawsuit. Students have also met with
UCLA administrators to discuss their concerns with no action so far from
the President.

“As a UCLA alumna and a UCLA medical student, I’m ashamed to witness the
actions of this administration- which so deeply deviate from their espoused
commitment to health equity- and even more embarrassed of this
pseudo-solution” said Neda Ashtari. “In response to our efforts, UCLA
Health has offered to utilize a portion of its Xtandi royalties to create a
fund for underserved populations to access the drug. While drug donation
can offer temporary aid, it is not a sustainable solution and considering
the rising prevalence and chronic nature of prostate cancer, the scale of
these drug donations would be woefully inadequate”.

Despite having already earned over half a billion US dollars directly for
the university with the sale of their own rights to the drug, UCLA has been
fighting a battle on behalf of the pharmaceutical corporations Pfizer and
Astellas by filing a patent with the Indian High Court in Delhi on their
behalf. If the patent is granted it would prevent the generic and more
affordable production of enzalutamide in India, ultimately preventing
access for millions of cancer patients in the country that is known for
developing and exporting most of the world’s generic medications.

“It is disappointing that UCLA would disregard the consequences of pursuing
patent rights that will make life-saving medicines out of reach for many”
Avanthi Jayaweera, Education and Advocacy Fellow for AMSA said, “future
physicians will not stand on the sidelines as medical schools side with
corporations that continue to diminish access to affordable medicines. We
are taught to put patients first and we will not break that promise."

UCLA’s pursuit of patent rights in India also undermines the licensing
guidelines adopted by the UC system in 2012 through UAEM advocacy, and
which recommend that academic institutions should prioritize unmet
geographical and economic need.

“As the leader of a university system that prides itself on its social
mission, Janet Napolitano’s lack of empathy for the impact of this case on
people’s lives is deeply disturbing, particularly as a cancer survivor
herself,” said Merith Basey, Executive Director of UAEM, North America.
“Napolitano has an opportunity to set an example for other leading
universities, rather than fold to the whims of pharmaceutical corporations.
Universities have a responsibility to ensure the drugs developed on their
campuses with taxpayer funds are affordable to the people who need them.
There is still time to do the right thing and make a decision that will
save people’s lives”

The eventual court decision will have great ramifications for the global
health community and could inform for better or worse future patent claims
and licensing patterns. Students are demanding that the university act with
the same moral integrity they expect of their students and calling for the
administration to drop the patent claim, lest they set a dangerous
precedent of pursuing exclusive patents and blocking generic drug
production in India.

They are sending a resounding message to universities, pharmaceutical
corporations, and the public in line with UAEM’s refrain that no one should
be sick because they are poor or be poor because they are sick.


Neda Ashtari, UCLA medical student

NAshtari at mednet.ucla.edu

Merith Basey, Executive Director, UAEM North America

merith at uaem.org

*Merith Basey MSc* (she/her)
Executive Director, North America
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines <http://uaem.org/>
@uaem @globalDiaBEATes

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