Medicamentalia is a journalistic investigation by Civio Foundation focusing on the global access of essential medications; it is one that has earned the Best Investigation of the Year award (subcategory “Small Newsroom”: less than 25 people) at the Data Journalism Awards– awarded by the Global Editors Network (GEN). Eva Belmonte accepted the award earlier today as a representative of the Medicamentalia team, during the Global Editors Network Summit, held in Vienna (Austria).
This award is the most prestigious international recognition within the journalistic data specialty. It is awarded to the best journalistic investigation that with the intensive use of data and technical innovation, shines light on an abuse of power or decision-making that in no way serves the public interest. In this fifth edition, 471 candidates were considered for recognition from over 50 countries; 118 of them within the Best Investigation of the Year category.
The goal of Medicamentalia was to report on the global access to medicines by allowing comparisons of drug prices and its affordability among different countries. The project goes beyond traditional journalism and combines data journalism techniques, traditional and scientific/comparative analyses of different health systems and the impact of patents on access to medicines.
The investigative team assembled, filled the gaps, cleaned, restructured and checked a database with over 45.000 fields of information on medicine prices and 14.500 fields on affordability. The differences in price of 14 drugs analysed in 61 countries were very pronounced even when looking at generics; and salaries did not compensate for this variance. This meant that a citizen of a developing country has to work much harder to afford the same treatment. To report on the causes and consequences of these price differences, the team travelled to Ghana to investigate counterfeit malarial medicines, as well as to Brazil, to learn about its compulsory licensing system, introduced in 2007. We found that although the pharmaceutical industry acknowledges the benefits of some alternative models to intellectual property in very particular cases, the patent system is non-negotiable.
The extraordinary honor associated with this award demonstrates that even outside the scope of large newrooms and media outlets, it is still possible to accomplish large and successful investigations with a global impact. In this case, it is our small team of journalists and programmers, that without an abundance of resources were able to generate authentic information as a public service.
The committee that selects the winners of the awards is directed by Simon Rogers, the data editor at the Google News Lab, and presided by Paul E. Steiger, founder of ProPublica. Within the same category, among the many competitors was The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (UK) investigating drone attacks, Ojo Público (Peru) investigating campaign funding, El Deber (Bolivia) investigating the administration of Evo Morales cabinet’s financial assets, and a work on femicide in Turkey by journalist Ceyda Ulukaya.
We would like to thank the European Journalism Center and Journalism Grants team that took a chance on this investigation, as well as other associated media (20 Minutos, Cadena Ser, Correctiv! And La Nacion) that all supported us from the start, and of course all of the Civio Foundation financial supporters. All that we have accomplished, big or small, has been possible thanks to their active support.
Medicamentalia is an active investigation and will continue to provide necessary responses to the troubling gap in access to medications. Every small donation will help us expand on current investigations like this one, and develop new projects. All that we have accomplished, we have done so with the help of our incredible 233 supporters (individual donors). With this in mind, we ask that you consider supporting our mission by becoming the 234th financial supporter.
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- Medicamentalia in other countries: Los tratamientos que enferman la economía familiar / La Nación (Argentina); 39 Tage Arbeit für ein Antibiotikum / Correctiv! (Germany); Cena zdravil / Dnevnik (Slovenia); Geneesmiddelen zijn bijna nergens zo betaalbaar als in België / Knack (Bélgica).