Yesterday my colleague Gavin Yamey, who is on sabbatical in east Africa this summer, wrote an interesting piece in Virtual Mentor, the AMA’s online ethics journal that this month tackles the theme “medicine in the era of globalization.”
In his article Gavin argues that open access to the medical literature can boost the global public health. He describes the enormity of cost barriers to the literature, which restrict the spread and use of medical knowledge:
A typical research article in a medical journal costs $30 to $50 to read (and a subscription to that journal costs hundreds of dollars). Just think about that fee for a moment. Uganda’s entire health care budget is about $9 per person per year . And yet it would cost each doctor up to $50 to read just one single article in a medical journal.
This is a perfect example, Gavin argues, of the inverse care law: those who need the most, receive the least.
The main challenge of medicine in the era of globalization clearly will be to address and redress inequities, not perpetuate them. This applies to the medical literature, too.