MSF-USA's quarterly newsletter features reports direct from the field and stories that chronicle our medical and advocacy work.

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Alert Fall 2015 | Vol. 16 No. 3

September 01, 2015

Dear Friends,

My first mission was in Ivory Coast. My boss was a 28-year-old French nurse who was serving as project coordinator, hospital manager, and medical coordinator, all at the same time. Her quiet, gentle manner belied a steely resolve. She knew every employee and many patients by name. Above all else, she was pragmatic, always seeking to do what was best for our patients, who were caught in a civil war.

I’ve always remembered her practical, patient-centered approach, because that’s really what this work is about—the patients. But even our most dedicated, skilled field workers can only do so much if they don’t have the right tools—the diagnostics, the medications, the vaccines—for the environments in which we work.

MSF’s Access Campaign was founded to prod others to develop or provide these essential medical tools and to make sure they work in remote locations with few resources. The work the Access Campaign does is directly tied to our field experience and has profound consequences for the people with whom we work. It brings much-needed attention to pricing, policies, the research and development system, and other crucial elements of the process by which medicines and medical tools make it to the field—or don’t, as the case may be.

And that’s what this issue of Alert is about, the cost of medicine, and the processes that drive the development of some medicines over others. Our special report consists of four interrelated sections, three of which highlight a different challenge our field teams face, while the fourth looks at the root causes of the dynamics at play. The first, focused on the $1,000-per-pill price tag of a new hepatitis C treatment, covers medications that are unaffordable because of how and why they’ve been developed and marketed. The second shows what happens when too many vaccines are unadapted to the settings in which we work (and, in some cases, unaffordable as well). The third looks at how the Ebola outbreak showed the frustrations of trying to respond to a crisis where good treatment options are unavailable. And then, to bring it all together, we look at the prevailing research and development system, which neglects huge swathes of people and leaves them vulnerable to health issues and diseases for which they should have better options.

My boss back on my first mission could make decisions at the field level that improved the picture for patients, but other things were far beyond her control, like the funding and incentive mechanisms for research and development, and the lack of attention paid to neglected diseases that primarily affect poorer patients. That’s why we think it’s so important to highlight the work that the Access Campaign is doing and to understand the issues we are raising here.

And as we talk about innovation, pragmatism, and effectiveness, we dedicate this issue of Alert to Jacques Pinel, a longtime MSF staffer who recently passed away. In his distinguished career with MSF, Jacques helped develop some of the most innovative and effective tools our field teams have, kits and protocols still in use that demonstrate the spirit, ingenuity, and attention to the needs of patients to which we all aspire. You will be missed, Jacques, but your impact will be felt every day in MSF projects—and by patients—around the world.


Deane Marchbein

President, MSF-USA Board of Directors

Alert Summer 2015 | Vol. 16 No. 2

June 01, 2015

Our staff sees incredible courage and determination from patients on an almost daily basis, and in this issue of Alert, we want to share images of some of those patients, along with their stories, so you can really see the people we try to assist.

Alert Spring 2015 | Vol. 16 No. 1

April 01, 2015

In this issue of Alert, we want to highlight a new campaign, “Because Tomorrow Needs Her,” which is designed to focus attention on women’s health.

Alert Fall 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 3

September 30, 2014

This issue of the Alert focuses primarily on a particularly challenging context: Syria, where a brutal conflict is now in its fourth year, and where what had been a middle income country with a well-developed medical infrastructure had been reduced to a shell of a state where the health system cannot function and millions have little access to care. Those with treatable chronic diseases cannot find medicine. Children are not getting vaccinated. Family after family—with innumerable trained health workers among them—have fled their homes to seek refuge with relatives or in neighboring countries where their presence places an enormous strain on avail­able resources.

Alert Summer 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 2

August 04, 2014

Like a lot of our staff, when I tell people that I work with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—and that I’ve worked in field missions in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Syria, and elsewhere—they want to know more. What is it like to work “over there”? Where does the organization get its money? Do you take people who don’t have medical backgrounds? When do you open and close programs? How do you manage the security of your teams?

Alert Winter 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 1

March 01, 2014

This is a crucial year for Afghanistan. A presidential election is scheduled for April, and it seems certain that there will be a significant withdrawal of US troops sometime after that. A great many questions are floating around about the political situation, the security situation, human rights, and more.

Alert Fall 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 4

September 30, 2013

In this issue we discuss the importance of vaccination for children under five to prevent debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. We also visit South Africa, where one young woman's story illustrates the critical need for access to medicines, and two MSF field workers in war-torn Syria recount their experiences.

Alert Summer 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 3

August 05, 2013

In this issue, we take you inside the neglected crisis in Central African Republic, in addition to stories on Chad, access to medicines, and surgery in war-torn Syria.