As Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines advocate, Steve Knievel wears many hats: advocate, researcher and organizer. He coordinates Public Citizen’s domestic campaign work to lower U.S. drug prices and describes his work as “fighting against the power of prescription drug corporations.” Knievel was born in Nebraska and grew up primarily outside Chicago. Before moving to Washington, D.C., he spent 10 years in the Rocky Mountain region finishing up high school, earning his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Colorado, Boulder and then working at a resort in a small ski town in Montana. He spent his last year of university studying in Prague, then spent seven months teaching English in Poland. Afterwards, he introduced himself to nonprofit work by interning with Friends of the Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Knievel has been working at Public Citizen for more than six years.
What appeals to you about Public Citizen?
I appreciate that Public Citizen acts as the progressive vanguard in a wide array of policy areas, and importantly that the organization recognizes that the problem of money in politics is deeply intertwined with virtually all of the issues where we seek progressive reform, ranging from making prescription drugs affordable to shifting away from dirty energy to clean and sustainable alternatives.
What drives you to do this work?
I find it outrageous that people do not have access to medicines they need to lead healthy and productive lives because profiteering drug corporations price medications out of reach. Those corporations are able to do so only because of the broader systemic problem in our politics of policy being driven by wealthy corporate interests instead of what is best for the public interest.
What’s the most interesting part of your job?
I get to engage in advocacy in a variety of ways, including conducting analysis, organizing people and lobbying policymakers. I find it extremely rewarding when the work that my colleagues and I do plays a role in influencing policy debates and outcomes.
What’s something most people don’t know about your work?
Many people don’t realize that as taxpayers, through special grants to universities and industry subsidies, we fund an immense amount of research and development that leads to new medicines, but we often pay more than people anywhere else in the world for those very same medicines. In other words, we pay twice — first through taxes, and then again through our premiums and at the pharmacy.
What are your plans for upcoming initiatives?
Our top domestic priority right now is to build support inside Washington and among the grassroots for the Improving Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs Act (aka Affordable Meds Act). The Affordable Meds Act is the most aggressive, comprehensive effort in the U.S. in decades to lower prescription drug prices and improve access to medicines.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m an avid listener of music and enjoy seeing live music as much as I can. I enjoy the outdoors and the mountains in particular. I like to hike and play disc golf, and still get in some snowboarding every so often. I also enjoy traveling and reading.
What’s up with your last name? Are you related to the famous stunt performer, Evel Knievel?
We’re related, but it’s incredibly distant.