By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday decried the injustice of what he called “pharmaceutical marginality”, saying those who live in poverty are poor even in medicines, treatment and health.
He made the remark to some 300 representatives of the Italy-based Fondazione Banco Farmaceutico (Medicine Bank Foundation), which collects medicines from donors and companies to deliver them to over 1,800 charities that take care of people in difficulty.
Injustice in treatment
Speaking to the Foundation on its 20th anniversary this year, the Pope said sometimes people “run the risk of not being able to get treatment for lack of money, or because some people in the world do not have access to certain medicines”. “There is also a "pharmaceutical marginality", which, he said, “creates a further gap between nations and peoples”.
“On the ethical level, if there is the possibility of curing a disease with a medicine, it should be available to everyone, otherwise it creates an injustice."
The Holy Father lamented that too many people and children are still dying in the world because they cannot have the medications available in other regions. Warning against the danger of globalization of indifference, he proposed the globalization of treatment, which is the “possibility of access to those medications that could save so many lives for all populations”.
Involving all actors
This, the Pope said, requires a “common effort, a convergence that involves everyone”. Scientific research can help find new solutions to old and new problems, including new paths of healing and treatment. Pharmaceutical companies can help contribute to a more equitable distribution of medicines.
Pharmacists, he said, can be particularly attentive to those most in need and work for the integral good of those who approach them. Through their legislative and financial choices, those in authority are called to build a more just world in which the poor are not abandoned, or worst still, discarded.
Pandemic and pharmaceutical poverty
Pope Francis drew attention to the current pandemic, which, he said, has claimed nearly a million lives and is also turning into a serious economic crisis. This is increasing the number of poor people and families who don’t know how to go ahead.
“While charitable assistance is being provided,” the Pope said, “it is also a matter of fighting this pharmaceutical poverty, in particular with a wide spread of new vaccines in the world.” He reiterated that “it would be sad if in providing the vaccine, priority is given to the richest, or if this vaccine became the property of this or that country, and not for everyone”.
Through its Medicine Collection Day over the past 20 years, the Banco Farmaceutico Foundation has collected over 5.6 million medicines worth some €34 million. Over 4,900 pharmacies and more than 22,000 volunteers were involved in this year’s Medicine Collection Day in February. More than 473,000 needy people benefitted from the medicines collected.