As we move into 2021 this is a very pertinent film to reflect on. It is about the AIDS crisis and how Big Pharma did everything in their power to prevent life saving drugs from getting to the people who needed them – all in the name of protectionism and profit.
As we face a similar crisis over the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to lerarn from the past and not allow the pharmaceutical companies to dictate to the world who gets vaccines and how much they pay – this is a world health problem, and we need to put people first, not profits.
One of the main culprits in the film is Pfizer, a name of everyone’s lips at present, as they have produced one of the first effective Covid vaccines, that is currently just starting to be employed in the US and elsewhere. Understanding how they acted in the past will help us defeat their plans in the present.
In the mid-90s ARV (Antiretroviral) drugs first came available, they enable the treatment of AIDS and HIV, and people taking them can live a fairly normal life once they start on them. In the west, however, these drugs were being sold at around $15,000 / year, which is obviously out of the reach of the poor, and totally beyond the ability of most people in poorer countries to afford.
The drugs themselves could be produced as generics in India at around $500 / year, and later for much less, but the pharmaceutical companies, fearing the thin edge of the wedge, decided to fight against it, and insisted on their patent rights, even though 100,000s of people were dying.
This film is about some of the activists who fought back, and the victories they had in eventually getting these drugs at a reasonable cost for their peoples. There are many heroes in this story, but they most certainly are not the leaders of Big Pharma and the governments who supported them.
Will we make the same mistake this time round, or are we ready to fight for the health of our fellow peoples?
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