UAEM Western is a group of students who find it unacceptable that millions around the world don't have access to essential medicines. We passionately believe in health equity and the role universities such as Western have in promoting equal access.
In 2001, a group of Yale University law students, together with Médecins Sans Frontières, helped convince Yale and the pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb to permit generic production of a critical Yale-discovered HIV/AIDS drug in sub-Saharan Africa, triggering dramatic 30-fold price reductions. This was the first such concession on an HIV/AIDS drug; price cuts on other medications soon followed. This enabled a major scale-up of HIV treatment throughout the continent. The campaign showed those students that, as major contributors to drug development, universities are well positioned to influence the way medical technologies are developed and distributed, and thus can do much to help alleviate the access-to-medicines crisis. What started as a small group of students at Yale University has now turned into a movement of more than 100 groups at universities in 18 countries around the globe, with strong coordination in Europe and Brazil and new chapters developing in India, Nepal and Tunisia, among other places. As a non-profit organization rooted in a global movement of university students, UAEM aims to (1) promote access to medicines and medical innovations in low- and middle-income countries by changing norms and practices around academic patenting and licensing, supported by our own independent research, (2) ensure that university medical research meets the needs of people worldwide and (3) empower students to respond to the access and innovation crisis. As committed students from all over the world who passionately believe in social justice and health equity, we find it unacceptable that millions of people do not have access to essential medicines. We are particularly concerned about people in developing countries who are disproportionately affected by the access to medicines crisis. Universities have a social compact with society and, as educational and research institutions, they have a responsibility to promote and manage the deployment of innovations for the public benefit. In no field are the moral imperatives to do so as clear as they are in medicine. Students are uniquely positioned to push for normative change in their universities and research institutions. We will use the intellectual sophistication, rigor and integrity of our members to fight for increased innovation as well as access to medicines and health-related technologies for all. Our work is guided at all times by principles of non-partisanship, democracy, transparency and respect.