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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 30, 2009

University of Iowa health conference focuses on globalization of drug therapies

One third of the world's population does not have access to essential drugs. Scholars and students from the University of Iowa and across the world will discuss access to essential drug therapies that are safe and affordable during the 2009 Global Health Studies Conference. The conference, sponsored by UI International Programs, will be Friday, Oct. 16 through Sunday, Oct. 18, in the Iowa Memorial Union Second Floor Ballroom on the UI campus.

While progress has been made since the 1970s, when one half of the population was without access to medications, the ability to get the right drugs to individual patients when they need them and at an affordable price is a significant hurdle in many countries and is particularly problematic in the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, according to Hazel Seaba (photo, left), associate dean for curriculum, assessment and compliance in the UI College of Pharmacy and organizer of this year's conference.

The 2009 Global Health Studies Conference will focus on access to medication therapies from several different perspectives including Stephen Schondelmeyer (photo, right), professor of pharmaceutical economics at the University of Minnesota, discussing why drugs cost what they do at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. Another perspective will be from Paul Hunt (photo, left), a professor in the Department of Law and the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex in the United Kingdom and UN Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health (2002-2008), discussing global drug development and appropriate and safe medication therapy as a human right presented via an interactive live video link from the University of Essex at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and the global response to AIDS, malaria and TB.

The conference will also address the response by the pharmaceutical industry to counterfeit drugs, and a 10 a.m. Sunday Oct. 18 session will spotlight a unique East African project that improves access to medications using existing drug sellers with Keith Johnson, of the Management Sciences for Health in Washington, D.C. Management Sciences for Health is a nonprofit international health organization composed of nearly 1,300 people from more than 60 nations whose mission is to save lives and improve the health of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people by closing the gap between knowledge and action in public health.

The conference concludes with several student global projects that have improved access to medications.

The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies affordable pricing, sustainable financing and reliable health and supply systems as principle barriers to medication access. The rational selection and use of medications is a fourth major obstacle. Access to critical medication is further complicated by the worldwide spread of counterfeit drugs, Seaba said.

Possibly as much as one-fourth of the pharmaceuticals sold in the developing world are counterfeit, according to a WHO report. Globalization of the pharmaceutical industry has meant that the ingredients of manufactured medications are increasingly imported, making the quality of drugs in even developed countries is at risk, Seaba said.

"Last year, in the U.S., over 80 deaths and hundreds of cases of severe reactions were attributed to a heparin product manufactured from contaminated ingredients from China," Seaba said. "This tragedy is a particularly sinister example of the impact of globalization of drug therapies. In contrast, this same year also saw the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reach 1.7 million AIDS suffers with antiretroviral therapy. This year's conference features local, national and international speakers who can bring understanding to the complexities and contrasts that globalization has meant for drug therapies."

This is the 15th conference to be sponsored by the UI Global Health Studies Program. While open to the public, the conference is also a UI course that is taken by graduate, professional and undergraduate students from many disciplines. Students not only attend and participate in the conference, but also prepare posters, fact sheets or papers and offer roundtable discussions on topics reflecting the conference theme.

As a course in the Global Health Studies Program within International Programs, the conference presents a focused area of global health that complements student's other global health courses by integrating knowledge, experiences and information from researchers, practitioners and experts from around the world.

Individual lectures are free and open to the public. Those wishing to attend the whole conference will be asked to pay a $40 registration fee. For more information, visit

For more information or special accommodations to attend the conference, contact Heidi Vekemans at 319-335-3862 or or visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Hazel Seaba, College of Pharmacy, 319-335-9241; Joan Kjaer, International Programs, 319-335-2026; Lois J. Gray, University News Services, 319-384-0077,