A Brief But Spectacular take on the importance of creating a global health system

Priti Krishtel started her career working with low-income communities in India where she saw her clients suffering, and even dying, because they couldn't afford the lifesaving medicines they needed. Now, she is advocating for a more equitable healthcare system in the U.S. and around the world. She gives us her Brief But Spectacular take on the importance of building a system that works for all.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Priti Krishtel started her career working with low-income communities in India, where she saw her clients suffering, and even dying, because they couldn't afford the lifesaving medicine. Krishtel is an advocate for a more equitable health care system.

    And, tonight, she gives her Brief But Spectacular take on the importance of building a global system that works for all.

  • Priti Krishtel, Health Justice Lawyer:

    Thirteen percent of Americans say they have lost a loved one in the last five years because they couldn't afford their medicine. And that number is twice as high for people of color.

    When COVID hit, I think a lot of people were taken by surprise. And for us in the access to medicines movement, we have been on the front lines of every epidemic and pandemic of the last 30 years. And we knew what was coming.

    We knew that governments were going to invest billions of dollars of taxpayer money on research and development for COVID vaccines. And, therefore, companies would make exorbitant profit off of taxpayer-funded research, while most of the world would not have access to the vaccine.

    We're 18 months in. Less than 1 percent of low-income country populations have been vaccinated. And there is no plan.

    I grew up with a dad who worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a scientist. Every time he made a discovery, he would get a patent, and then that patent would get framed and go up on the wall in our house. Patents are supposed to be a reward given to inventors, and, in return, we, the public, are supposed to benefit from that invention.

    But what we're seeing today is that companies hire armies of lawyers to represent their private interests and file hundreds of patents. The monopolies get longer and longer, and the companies keep hiking the prices, and it's Americans who are crying out for relief. They can't afford the medicines.

    People are rationing. They're going without. In many cases, they are dying.

    We live in a hierarchy of health. Some people are going to get medical products first, and some people aren't going to get them at all. We saw that with COVID when the tests and the treatments first started coming out. That's how the system essentially works. A more just and equitable system for pandemics would ensure that, in every region of the world, we could develop, manufacture vaccines and other medical products and get them to every country who needed them as quickly as possible.

    And that's what's going to be needed, not just for COVID in the next three years, but for every pandemic that is yet to follow. We could save twice as many lives if we worked collaboratively, instead of competitively. And as variants continued to emerge, we are going to start to really be faced with that hard truth that none of us are safe until all of us are safe.

    My name is Priti Krishtel, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on the importance of building a global health system that works for all.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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