I grew up in rural Western Uganda, where two of my siblings succumbed to measles before their fifth birthday and my father to HIV/AIDS before I turned 10. I often wondered why so many preventable and treatable diseases were still killing the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Could it be possible that big pharmaceutical companies and big, bureaucracy-laden governments were so vertically aligned in their approach to bringing life-saving medicines to market, that they rarely saw any reason to find solidarity with the communities that would eventually benefit from their inventions and policies?
My father and my baby sisters did not die because the vaccines for measles or the antiretroviral drugs for HIV were not available. They died, in large part, because life-saving vaccines and medicines were priced beyond our reach. To complicate this tragedy, my government enacted failed policies to secure the drugs for those who needed them most, Uganda’s marginalized poor.
Fortunately, this is likely to change in the not-so-distant future. The Rockefeller and Open Society foundations are sponsoring the first-ever global conference on open source pharmaceuticals. Given the advent of social entrepreneurship and proliferation of market disrupting ideas, such as open data, open software, and crowdsourcing, it is possible that the Open Source Pharma Conference could be the beginning of the end to generations of pain and suffering that communities like mine have endured.
Why is this important? In Uganda alone…