Symposium to address pharmacueticals

Think about the last time you took a pill. It probably wasn’t that long ago. But do you know where that pill came from? Do you know what it does to your body? Do you know how it was developed? At next week’s symposium, organized by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights, you can find out.

Director of the Rosenfield Program Sarah Purcell ’92, History, said the “Global Pharmaceuticals” symposium will focus on more than typical domestic issues of drug prices. Purcell said the symposium would prompt “people to think about the connections between nations … about how the interrelated nature of the world affects something as straightforward as drugs.”

To help people make these connections, the Rosenfield Program will bring in a wide range of speakers, touching on subjects from AIDS medication in Africa to pharmaceuticals’ impact on healthcare in the United States.

Elaine Marzluff, Chemistry, a Rosenfield Committee member, said there are two main issues people must keep in mind when discussing drugs and their effect on society—the science behind them and the policies created around them.

“The science side is ‘How you make the drugs and make them cost effective?’” Marzluff said. “But at the same time we have people working on the much truer policy side which is ‘Alright, how do we make these drugs accessible?’”

A panel discussion with community members in the pharmaceutical industry will attempt to answer these questions on Wednesday afternoon, moderated by David Rosenbaum ’78, a bio-patent attorney. The panel will include Stephen Sieck, Chemistry, two local pharmacists from Grinnell Regional Medical Center, and Mark Wilcox ’09, who interned last summer at Pfizer, a major pharmaceutical corporation.

Wilcox said he hopes the symposium will help people understand the work that goes into creating those pills we take every day. “Few people realize it takes 15 to 16 years and billions of dollars to make a drug,” he said. “But how many pills have you taken in your life?”

For this symposium, the Rosenfield Program worked with the Faulconer Gallery to help promote an art exhibit coming next fall, called “Molecules that Matter,” which chronicles the ten most important molecules of the 20th century, from nylon to Prozac. Ray Giguere, a chemistry professor at Skidmore College who developed the exhibit, will present Tuesday night on the four pharmaceuticals included in the exhibit.

The Faulconer Gallery will also install an exhibit especially designed for the symposium. Tilly Woodward, Curator of Academic and Public Outreach for the Gallery, will glue “several thousand” pills of different colors on to the windows of JRC 101 to provide a better context for the events.

“Hopefully it will allow people to visualize the sheer quantity of pills [we consume],” Woodward said.

The symposium runs from Feb 3-5, and the Scholar’s Convocation on Thursday, “Public Health Controversies and Vaccine Safety,” will be given by Kathleen Stratton of the Institute of Medicine.

All events are in JRC 101, except a career talk in the Career Development Office on Thursday afternoon.