On Purpose

It was then that I knew my life’s purpose was to advocate for every individual’s access to safe and affordable medications. Today, I am a pharmacist working to achieve health equity.

Morẹ́nikẹ́ Ọláòṣebìkan
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I was born in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria with dreams of becoming a physician, like my father. I grew up witnessing entire communities succumbing to HIV and AIDS and hearing of mothers passing the disease to their children despite taking prophylactic medications. Unfortunately, Nigeria was, and continues to be an epicentre of counterfeit drugs–I later learned that the medications these patients were taking were made of baking soda.

When I was 19, I contracted tuberculosis, a curable and preventable disease that almost exclusively affects individuals in developing countries. I attended a clinic every month, which also treated HIV patients, to endure nine months of TB quadruple therapy. There I saw, first-hand, how poorly HIV patients were treated, and how devastating the disease can be within inequitable healthcare systems.

It was then that I knew my life’s purpose was to advocate for every individual’s access to safe and affordable medications. Today, I am a pharmacist working to achieve health equity.

Drug shortages continue to be a serious problem in African countries; Africa imports up to 90% of its medications. Only 40% to 60% of the population has access to many essential medications, and some 1.6 million people needlessly die every year because they do not have access to lifesaving drugs for HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Even developed countries are impacted by drug shortages: here in Canada, almost 80% of pharmacists report increasing drug shortages.

These are pre-pandemic statistics.

The pandemic has intensified drug shortages across the globe. In July 2020, 73 countries were at risk of antiretroviral (ARV) shortages due to decreased manufacturing activity and supply chain disruptions. The World Health Organization projected that a six-month disturbance in access to ARVs could result in 500,000 extra AIDS-related deaths in Africa alone, by December 2021.

Meanwhile, in Canada, the number of drug shortages reported on the Canadian drug shortage website reached 16 per day, compared with five before the pandemic began. In May 2020, only 3% of pharmacists reported receiving all of their medication orders in full. The supply of complementary COVID-19 treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and salbutamol, was so low that patients who regularly use them to treat autoimmune diseases and asthma, respectively, couldn’t get their prescriptions filled.

To effectively address the drug shortage problem, we need to change how medications are manufactured and delivered. So, what is the solution?

Decentralized, globally interconnected medication manufacturing.

Kemet is developing modular, prefabricated drug manufacturing facilities that can be transported to any part of the world experiencing essential medication shortages. These hyperlocal facilities will be connected by a digital network of individuals and institutions to enable streamlined drug manufacturing, agile decisions and group purchasing power. This network will support real-time drug shortage reporting and changes to manufacturing to meet demand; as well as the collection of data to help predict drug shortages in the future. In addition to reducing supply chain reliance and energy intensive shipping and distribution, this system will drastically improve health outcomes, create jobs, empower local communities and support health equity.

Join us in the drug access revolution!