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.
The 2022 Illustrated Accordion Exhibit opens at the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center on February 4 and closes on March 25. This annual open show always serves up a fun variety of craftsmanship, concepts and materials. The exhibit is both on-site and virtual. In Kalamazoo, Michigan visit the Center at 326 W. Kalamazoo Avenue or visit the website here. My piece this year is a tiny reminder about the issue of drug pricing in acetate, thread, laser print and currency. "Drug Pricing Transparency - An American Need" is in Gallery 2.
Here's an image worth a thousand words and implications. I first saw this sculpture, "Snake Bit" by Mark Allen Henderson in Valentina Di Liscia's Hyperallergic article "PAIN Activists Say They Were Followed by Sackler-hired Investigators." See the sculpture alone, with no text or context, and it is a reminder of many things the pharmaceutical industry embodies. It's a brilliant little piece that I will resist saying too much about. Who needs words, here?
Visit www.markallenhenderson.com to learn more of the artist's two- and three-dimensional work.
Jill Stanton is an artist and muralist living in Edmonton, Alberta. Her piece for Amplifier, "Let's Complete the Puzzle," is a strong, joyful reminder of our interconnectedness and our responsibility for each other. Get the vaccine. Seriously. Get the vaccine.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and congressional jostling to curb drug pricing continues on the edges of the Build Back Better Plan. Fortunately, Medicare's ability to negotiate some prescription drug prices is back on the table again. T1International and Families United for Affordable Insulin (FUFIA) have launched the What We Lost Campaign. Learn more here.
Remember the breathtaking price surge for Mylan’s EpiPen in 2016? This piece, “Price of Life,” reminds us it isn’t easy to break the box for emergencies if you have to pay to do so. Artist Lily Winer has severe allergies and has carried epinephrine auto-injectors as long as she can remember. “EpiPens have saved me more than once,” she says. When prices started to rise she realized “that the medical industry juggernaut does not necessarily care about saving lives, but that saving lives is lucrative. Saving my life, was lucrative.”
I really appreciate this piece, and I look forward to how her practice develops. I hope we will arrive at the point where such responsive artwork is unnecessary because we have access to the essential medicines that are already available. Visit Lily Winer.
This op-ed first appeared in The Gettysburg Times, September 10, 2021
I never thought I would describe Washington Dulles International Airport as a relaxing place to be. I have other associations with travel and the iconic design of Eeuro Saarinen’s main terminal. Navigating traffic on the way down, making sure my passport is not just valid but valid for long enough to satisfy entry requirements of other countries, not knowing how crowded the parking lots would be, and the extra airline fees for things that used to be included (like a suitcase) add to the whirlwind of stress.
And yet, walking toward my gate I experienced a sense of freedom that had nothing to do with post-check-in relief. No one argued about wearing masks. It was uncomplicated. People wanted to go places. That was the priority. The mask was just a matter-of-fact part of being in the shared space, a detail no more irritating than taking off our shoes and lifting our carry-on items into the bins for security.
Public health, at its essence, is about getting everyone to the point where we can relax. To function and live our lives requires basic health and safety.
We are individuals within communities. Like everyone I move through different spaces and contexts. Waiting to board the plane I was in the context of my fellow passengers and the crew and airport employees. Wearing a mask allowed me to get where I needed to go without endangering or inconveniencing others.
This isn’t partisan. It’s practical. Whatever context we find ourselves in, we share susceptibility to the aging process, to diseases and viruses, to bullets and the need for air and water. If you require an essential medicine to live you can’t relax without it because you literally cannot live without it.
Insulin is just one example. 2021 happens to be the 100th anniversary year of the invention of insulin in Canada. The patent was sold for $1.00 because the priority was getting it to patients as quickly as possible. Price gouging, easily manipulated patent laws and the power of PBMs are public health issues because we all pay for inflated pricing – directly or indirectly. It’s a public health issue because no one knows, from one day to the next when any of us will need an essential medicine. I’s a public health issue because many legislators – public-elected, public-serving citizens, are likely to take money from major pharmaceutical companies.
A post-election poll by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Politico asked how important 23 potential priorities mentioned in the media should be for Congress and President Biden. The results appear in Politico’s January 2021 report “The American Public’s Priorities for the New President and Congress.” Issues are ranked according to Republicans, Independents and Democrats. When it comes to points of concern widely agreed upon, “taking federal government action to lower prescription drug prices” was second only to the need for a COVID relief bill. We want the same thing.
Patients for Affordable Drugs has a useful graphic to show drug price hikes. More than 1,000 price hikes have taken place in 2021. The illustration points to the fact that 53 drug companies increased the price of 75 drugs in the first week in July – and that’s only halfway through the year.
We can do better. State and federal lawmakers can do better. Public health is not abstract. Think of ourselves and our health in the next largest context. An international airport is a great reminder that there are many ways to be. Strangers with a heck of a lot in common, we look and speak differently, yet we move through shared spaces – physically and virtually.
What can we do right now? One feature of the 2022 Budget Resolution and Reconciliation announced in August is giving Medicare the ability to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. Give it a chance. Express your support. This is long overdue. Sign the PHAN petition to lower prescription drug prices. Learn about one organization’s approach to the 100-year mark of the discovery of insulin at t1international.com/100years/. Consider stories and solutions offered at patientsforaffordabledrugs.org/solutions/. Get inspired by fabulous visual art responses to public health and the COVID-19 vaccine at Amplifier.
Katy Giebenhain is on the Gettysburg Area DFA Healthcare Task Force
A work from Amplifier's #Vaccinated campaign that I especially like is "Vaccines for All" by Macedonian graphic designer Zoran Kardula. Amplifier partnered with the Vaccine Confidence Project for the campaign to "create symbols that build trust in the safety and efficacy of vaccines, advocate for vaccine equity, and help combat vaccine disinformation." See more at Amplifier.
An arts blog advocating for access to essential medicines