A folksong is a song of the people.
A folksong is truth-telling with a chorus.
I've thought for a long time that barriers to essential medicines deserve a contemporary folksong. Here is a reminder of the situation we (the entire country) find ourselves in. I thank David Wilcox for his unmistakable voice and songwriting. "Broken by Design," with music and lyrics © David Wilcox, names the deliberate complexity of drug pricing. The August 15, 2022 White House news release "By the Numbers: The Inflation Reduction Act" includes the fact that there were three times the number of lobbyists from pharmaceutical companies as Members of Congress in 2021.
We can do better. They can do better. There is reason to hope.
I have experienced July 4 in the U.S. and while living overseas. It is interesting to get perspective on your country of origin when you no longer live there. It is equally interesting to not recognize your country when you are physically "back home." Today, on the heels of the Supreme Court shutting down official access to abortion (which access to essential medicines includes), I can't help but think of all the kinds of access we celebrate on this holiday. I've dug up an old poster I designed with the last words of each line from the Star Spangled Banner. We can do better. We can trust each other more when we respect each other more. We certainly can trust women and their healthcare providers more.
I am pleased to have a mixed-media piece included in the June 2022 issue of American Journal of Nursing (AJN). "American Drug Formulary Exclusions" appears in the Art of Nursing column.
Along with the other articles is a perceptive column about the reality of self-care for nurses by Emily Stice Laker. I also appreciate the tribute to the late Dr. Paul Farmer which quotes his 2018 Harvard Gazette interview. Farmer points with precision to our problem with access to medicines (and healthcare in general). It is an attitude that steers policy and individual decisions: "We are socialized for scarcity for other people." He asserted that everyone has a right to first-class healthcare.
I was happy for the chance to make it down to the Baltimore Museum of Art to see the Joan Mitchell exhibit, and Guarding the Art (curated by BMA guards). It was something in the bookstore, though, that was the zinger of the visit. Leafing through Posters for Change: Tear, Paste, Protest, a Princeton Architectural Press title from 2018 brought me to Valerie Joly Chock's design for the poster "Not a Luxury." This is what good visual design can do. Here, the right words and the right image speak a truth which has only increased since the publication of the book. Posters for Change gathers 50 posters responding to social and political issues. They can be torn out from the binding.
In the description, Joly Chock says her poster's healthcare focus "...uses patterns similar to those of luxurious brands to convey how expensive some medications are. The poster communicates that medicine should not be a luxury to which only the wealthy have access." Amen to that. See more of her work here.
The New York Times Editorial Board presented a constructive editorial in the April 16, 2022 issue. I appreciate the accompanying illustration, too. "Save America's Patent System" outlines how the system could function better if we enforce existing standards, improve the process for challenging bad patents, eliminate potential conflicts of interest, collaborate with other agencies and let the public participate. "And for all the hand-wringing over how to lower prescription drug costs in recent years, little has been said about the patent system or its many failings. Put simply: The United States Patent and Trademark Office is in dire need of reform."
"Wolves in Sheep's Clothing - Big Pharma Lobbyists" appears in the Spring, 2022 issue of The Northern Virginia Review. Last year was a record-breaking one for industry spending on lobbying. View the full issue of the journal below. I recommend Elisabeth Rosenthal's article "Public Opinion Is Unified on Lowering Drug Prices. Why Are Leaders Settling for Less?" from Kaiser Health News for a useful description of the topic.
Of all the Beverly Fishman exhibits (and there have been tons of them) the one I most wish I could have seen is the 2010 installation at David Richard Contemporary when the gallery was still open. The implications of the collected pieces in this corner make it a work that would be interesting to revisit each year and think about the role of the pharmaceutical industry. How has the role of the industry changed? How has it not changed? See the pills/reliefs page on Fishman's site.
We have lost an extraordinary public health advocate and mentor. I recommend this podcast with author John Green to get a sense of Paul Farmer's contribution. His attitude in all circumstances is one we can strive for. I especially appreciate his refusal to give in to despair. The tribut featuring John Green appears on the Please, go on series with James Hohmann from The Washington Post.
Visit Partners in Health. Listen to the podcast here.
How lovely is this tea tin? Elizabeth Pfiester, Founder & Executive Director of T1International, a non-profit advocating for access to insulin and supplies for diabetics, is marking her 30-year "diaversary" with a fundraiser. Learn more here. A box of tea costs about $13. A single vial of insulin carries a list price of $300. Want to participate in this March campaign? Take a picture of your cup or box of tea and post it, sharing the cost of tea compared to the cost of a vial of insulin where you live. Hashtags are #Tea1Internatioal #SpillTheTea, and #insulin4all! You can also check out Harney & Sons Master Tea Blenders. That's the famous photo of Best and Banting and one of the dogs that led to the discovery of insulin a century ago.
Access to medicines and access to healthcare is alluded to brilliantly in “US Healthcare,” one of the pieces in Davis's current exhibit Reality Check: The Work of Anna U Davis at IA&A at Hillyer in Washington, D.C. It runs from January 8 to February 27, 2022. This piece is from 2009 (Acrylic, ink pen and cut paper collage on canvas, 32" x 32"). The artist grew up in Lund, Sweden and now lives in the United States. Her multi-media works zero in on social inequalities. Visit annaudavis.com to learn more. IA&A at Hillyer is located at 9 Hillyer Court, NW in Washington, D.C.
An arts blog advocating for access to essential medicines