PRESS RELEASE: Students and Future Doctors Challenge Appointment of Rep. Price

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2016

Students and Future Doctors Challenge Appointment of Rep. Price

Washington, D.C.—A decade ago, a group of student activists founded the non-profit organization Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) to advocate through academic institutions for universal, fair, and affordable access to medicines. UAEM and our members find President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Representative Tom Price as Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services unacceptable due to Price’s record on access to medicines and health services.

On the 51st anniversary of the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, his nomination represents an unprecedented attack on the safety net on which many Americans depend to provide healthcare services. His record of limiting access to reproductive healthcare and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals is completely contrary to the principle of providing equal access to healthcare to all Americans.

Additionally, our student physician members find the endorsements of Representative Price by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) particularly unconscionable, as we anticipate he would further restrict access to quality, affordable healthcare services and undermine support for equity in the provision of healthcare, especially for marginalized populations.  We believe both the AMA and AAMC should consider Price’s appointment a threat to their work as physicians and educators, given their commitment to provide care “with compassion and respect for human dignity and rights.”

Case Western medical student and UAEM North America Board President Gloria Tavera said of the appointment of Tom Price, “Decisions made based on his personal beliefs will ultimately remove access to lifesaving medical care from tens of millions of people. These are patients that we have a mandate to care for, as students and researchers at major biomedical research universities.”

This year, UAEM has pushed for political action to ensure that drugs developed in university labs using taxpayer money are widely available and reasonably priced. Our “Take Back Our Medicines” campaign calls on the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of biomedical research and development (R&D) not only in the US but worldwide, to adopt measures that would lower drug prices for Americans as well as for the global community. UAEM has long advocated for universities to be held accountable in their pursuit of truly innovative biomedical research and for the protection of access to medicines developed through that research, funded primarily with tax-payer dollars. The Take Back Our Medicines campaign recognizes that publicly funded research and resulting discoveries must be made accessible and affordable to all who need it.

Lowering drug prices and amending the current biomedical R&D landscape will require leaders who are willing to stand up to the pharmaceutical lobby. Tom Price’s record shows that he is committed to pharmaceutical business-as-usual; he has fought to destroy existing mechanisms for negotiating drug prices, like Medicare, as well as more radical drug pricing reforms. We need leadership that will act to transform the current system, which perpetuates high drug prices.The nomination of Tom Price guarantees further pharmaceutical profiteering, while millions are denied their right to affordable healthcare through high drug pricing.

“We cannot allow Price to undermine efforts to provide and improve access here in the U.S.,” says Sophia Tonnu, UC Berkeley law student and UAEM North America student leader.  She continued, “Representative Price’s appointment threatens health care coverage for millions of Americans and directly counteracts efforts to push for negotiation of drug prices through public programs.”

UAEM and our student members call on the AMA and the AAMC to oppose the selection of Representative Tom Price. The AMA states in its Principles of medical ethics that “A physician shall support access to medical care for all people.” Our country must reject the threatening rollback of healthcare access in the U.S. and the AMA and AAMC, representing our current and future doctors, should be at the helm of this fight, working to reaffirm our shared principles of affordable and equal access rather than supporting those who choose to jeopardize these principles.

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For over 15 years, UAEM has been a global grassroots organization that empowers students to advocate for equitable access to medicines, and to ensure that publicly funded medical research meets the needs of people everywhere. In 2001, a group of Yale law students triggered the first major pricing concession on an HIV/AIDS drug, and price cuts on other medications soon followed, allowing millions to be treated. Since this initial victory, UAEM has grown into a global student movement as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, bringing together students from over 70 university campuses in 18 countries worldwide, from fields including law, medicine, science, public health, and economics. To learn more or support our work see www.uaem.org