The reach of GSK medicines and building community

Seeing the Impact of GSK Medicines and Vaccines

It is easy to lose sight between all the meetings and tasks that need to be done to run a clinical research study and the impact of that medicine or vaccine if it reaches patients.  Spending time reviewing operating procedures, checking import forms, meeting on a new digital system are all tasks that need to be done, but tasks lacking a direct line to the people you hope to help.  One of the benefits of a GSK PULSE assignment in a rural healthcare center is you see the direct line to people.  I visited a pharmacy in the small village of Rwinkwavu in Eastern Rwanda.  The pharmacy is connected to a district hospital supported by both Partners in Health/Inshuti Mu Buzima (PIH/IMB) and the Rwandan Ministry of Health.  Among the medicines and vaccines I saw were some familiar GSK and ViiV names:  Amoxicillin and Augmentin (antibiotics); Abacavir, Dolutegravir, and Lamivudine (antiretrovirals); Ventolin (bronchodialator); Engerix (hepatitis B vaccine); and Rotarix (rotavirus vaccine).  Other than the vaccines I saw, most of the drugs with familiar GSK names were manufactured as generic or under a licensing agreement with another manufacturer.   Vaccines tiered pricing and generic drugs lower the cost of GSK medicines for poor communities and GSK should be proud of its consistent ranking in the Access to Medicines Index.  When I asked the pharmacist and physician who were there during my tour about the medicines and vaccines, they said they could point to patients currently at the hospital next door whose lives are dramatically improved because of GSK (and other pharma company) medicines.  That is a direct line.

Building Community Every Month

Rwanda has a fantastic event on the last Saturday of every month – Umuganda.  Umuganda, also known as community work with the purpose to contribute to the overall national development, was reintroduced to Rwandan life in 1998 as part of efforts to rebuild the country after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.   On the last Saturday in August we met on a hillside behind a nursery school in Rwinkwavu.  I was given a machete and proceeded with others to hack away the bushes and underbrush for about 20 yards behind the building.  Clearing the brush helps to keep snakes away from the nursery school.  I was instructed on proper machete technique not once, but twice.  After hacking at the bushes, we carried small rocks and rolled very large boulders down the hill to the edge of the building.  These rocks and boulders would be broken up and used to reinforce the building foundation but also be used as a foundation for a village chicken coop.

After working, we all went in to the nursery school and the village leaders thanked everyone for their help, explaining what the work accomplished and what was being considered for next month.   While people in the US volunteer their time in high numbers for good causes, I’m only aware of the MLK day of service in January as a time when the country as a whole tries to volunteer for their community.  I’m wondering if a US version of Umuganda on a monthly basis could help enhance our own sense of community.


  1. Hi Stephen, it is great to see that you are getting to see the direct line to the patient through your work at PIH. I think it is something that many at GSK would benefit from and love to see firsthand the positive impact our medicines have on patients. I never got to work with a machete, I stuck with the shovels and the picks during Umuganda :). I think something similar in the US could help build that sense of community but it would be a challenge to mandate like they do in Rwanda. Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Hi Steve, I love that you can so easily see the line between our daily work struggles and the lives of real people. And I love that you can use a machete! We do have some scrub growing in our corner of UP Building 4, and I look forward to your return!

  3. Hi Steve! So glad you are getting to see the direct line to the patients and to see the benefits of our GSK medicines and vaccines. Wow I’m impressed you can add proper machete technique to your resume! I agree that a US version of Umuganda on a monthly basis could help enhance our US communities. Let’s get it started when you return! Thanks for sharing your Pulse assignment and keep up the great work you are doing!

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