Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automated Decision Making (ADM) are buzzwords that are making headlines more and more frequently and have increasing influence in the healthcare space. Although implementing AI/ADM promises to streamline processes and optimise efficiencies and outcomes, greater adoption of these technologies may mean that underlying biases in data used in machine learning are reinforced and in some cases, amplified. When it comes to access to medicines, this could have far-reaching consequences for our world’s already marginalised communities. 

In 2021, Health Action International were among 16 civil society organisations who received targeted core funding from the European Artificial Intelligence (AI) fund so that we can address this challenge. We aim to strengthen the existing medicines policy expertise by recognising, understanding, and reflecting on the impact of AI/ADM in our research, advocacy, and communications activities. 

We have subsequently undertaken training on the impact of AI in healthcare. With the help of our AI consultant Hannah van Kolfschooten, we are conducting continuous research into AI/ADM’s application in clinical trials design, conduct and interpretation, and its impact on Health Technology Assessment processes, while raising awareness of the lack of regulation of health AI.

Some of our recent work has included various reports, blogs, op-eds, and even an explanatory animated video. Further, we lead a thematic network within the EU and have been granted the opportunity to make a joint statement at DG Santé, in collaboration with Brunel University. We have joined the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Multistakeholder group on digital tools for medicine risk minimisation and have conducted research on AI in pharmaceutical promotion. In December, we held a webinar event on how to realise a health-centric AI Act.

Now, it is crucial that relevant stakeholders have increased awareness of the risks of AI technologies for health inequality related to specific EU regulatory frameworks, which means continuing to work with the European Parliament, the EMA and national parliaments in EU Member States.

We are excited to be part of this emerging and important public debate in order to represent and protect public interests so that we can continue to improve access to medicines for everyone, everywhere.