Summary: Two news stories highlight visionary women pursuing community benefit. One, a lawyer and new MacArthur fellow, seeks drug patent law changes that favor access for patients over benefit to Big Pharma stockholders. Another, an heiress, advocates for high taxation of inherited wealth. Both missions align well with single payer.
Priti Krishtel, Health Justice Lawyer, MacArthur Fellows Program, Class of 2022
Priti Krishtel is a health justice lawyer exposing the inequities in the patent system to increase access to affordable, life-saving medications on a global scale. By distilling the technical aspects of the patent system to show its sometimes devastating impact on people’s lives, Krishtel is galvanizing a movement to center people instead of only commercial interests in our medicines patent policy.
… In 2006, Krishtel co-founded the Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK) to ensure the public had a voice in the pharmaceutical patent system. Krishtel and the organization are drawing attention to weaknesses within the patent system while identifying needed reforms to make it more responsive to the public good. Patents are intended to incentivize innovation by ensuring that only the patent holder can sell and profit from the product for a fixed time. However, many pharmaceutical companies seek to extend their monopolies by filing multiple patents on small changes (such as changes in dosage) to existing drugs over several years. This stifles competition, delays generic production, and keeps medicines out of the hands of people who need them the most. I-MAK has successfully contested patents worldwide, saving governments billions of dollars in public health spending and giving millions of people access to life-saving treatments. … I-MAK brings together a range of stakeholders—including patient groups, policymakers, and patent lawyers and judges—to deepen collective understanding of the impact of the patent system across different communities. … Their proposed reforms include ensuring only meaningful inventions are rewarded with a patent, increasing oversight from other government branches, and increasing public participation in the patent process.
She’s Inheriting Millions. She Wants Her Wealth Taxed Away, New York Times, October 21, 2022, by Emma Bubola
Marlene Engelhorn, 30, heir to a fortune, isn’t interested in philanthropy, believing it only perpetuates existing power dynamics. She’s calling for structural change to how the ultrarich are taxed.
By the time her extraordinarily wealthy grandmother died last month, Marlene Engelhorn already knew who she wanted to be the ultimate beneficiary of the enormous inheritance coming her way: the tax man.
“The dream scenario is I get taxed,” said Ms. Engelhorn, the co-founder of a group called Tax Me Now.
Ms. Engelhorn, a 30-year-old who grew up in Vienna, is part of a growing movement of young, leftist millionaires who say they want governments to take a much larger share of their inherited wealth, arguing that these unearned fortunes should be democratically allocated by the state.
For more than a year, Ms. Engelhorn has been campaigning for tax policies that would redistribute her eight-figure windfall — and anyone else’s.
By Jim Kahn, M.D., M.P.H.
We all need inspiration in the pursuit of community values. That’s especially true in today’s world where the profit-takers have such firm control of the rules of the game – influencing laws and regulations that favor them and exploiting those to the max.
Ms. Krishtel and Ms. Engelhorn exhibit admirable community values, talent, and determination. Ms. Krishtel works on pivotal details of patent law, and Ms. Engelhorn targets inheritance taxes for the wealthy. I was exhilarated reading about them.
Single payer, of course, also embodies community health and prosperity over private gain. The profiteers are wealthy health system stakeholders — insurers, pharma, provider conglomerates, and the private equity firms that participate in all those roles. Community includes all the patients and providers who deserve a better system.
There are so many of us engaged in social justice crusades. Let’s draw renewed energy and vision from these amazing women.