Editorial Note: Think of this as a Bruce Willis set of posts. I’m no BW fan. Nor a fan of the nuclear bomb. Chances are neither were the makers of the movie Armageddon. But someone probably got a thrill out of forcing a bunch of people who hate BW and were members of CND cheering Bruce on when he set off with the atom bomb to destroy the asteroid threatening earth. Ditto with the next few posts. If anyone has suggestions for posts to add to the sequence – please send and perhaps even send a complete post.
The year is 1980. America, the land of the “free” and home of the “brave”, has the first hints of a Biblical plague. Things rapidly get worse. Panic sets in. Time for a God-fearing people to repent of all the things they have been doing wrong – like pricing people out of decent healthcare. Time to support each other.
It never works out this way. Church-going (and mosque and synagogue going etc) people are the first to save themselves first. It was left to the outcasts to band together and push for a rational response to what was happening – one option being to deploy a nuclear bomb if one could be developed.
ACT-UP formed. Over a decade its members held together – not without tension – and cut through bureaucratic red-tape, tons of political correctness and supposed scientific orthodoxy, and got into bed with all sorts of bed-fellows they would previously have not been seen dead with.
The result, partly down to luck, was Triple Therapy. This didn’t happen because of controlled trials or any standard procedures – the benefits of the combination were discovered by patients and doctors juggling meds and seeing people come back to life. It was not a pharmaceutical company discovery.
But once it became clear that Triple Therapy worked, all of sudden normal rules applied and companies worked out how to make a fortune. These patients would pay a fortune to save their life and most of the God-fearing fold would pay a fortune to reduce the risk to themselves.
Things were looking good until the Road-Runner moment when a grinning pharmaceutical industry realised it had run right off the cliff and the next move was going to be down.
There wasn’t just a bunch of wealthy Americans who could be gauged for $15,000 per year – nothing compared with the gauge rate now. There were millions elsewhere, particularly in Africa. It was almost impossible to work out how to gauge everyone. The Africans couldn’t pay and were already dying in droves. The price couldn’t be brought down to a level where they could pay as gauging Americans would no longer be possible.
The US government it seemed was wheelable in and was wheeled in by pharma to say it would sue the governments of other countries – like Brazil – if they infringed patents and made cheap copies of these ground-breaking US drugs.
When it got to the point that the Washington Post could ask whether there was anything more the American pharmaceutical industry could do to damage its reputation – sue Nelson Mandela perhaps – and industry did just this, the Road Runner was in free fall and looking at becoming a splat on the canyon floor.
Until Osama bin Laden swooped in just beneath the falling pharmaceutical industry and whisked it to safety.
Blink at the wrong point in the movie and you’d have missed it.
In the wake of 9/11, there was panic all round. The following month letters containing anthrax spores began circulating. Anthrax can be lethal and is difficult to treat. The best treatment at the time seemed to be Bayer’s Cipro – ciprofloxacin, a fluoroquinolone antibiotic that nobody in their right mind should take unless they have to. But worth a fortune because American doctors were dishing it out like there was no tomorrow. The US government wanted to bulk buy but Bayer were haggling about the price.
Then all of sudden the log-jam broke. Insiders blinked and said what’s the problem – the US government breaks patents the whole time. Word leaked out that the US government had been routinely breaking patents for national security and other reasons since the 1950s and would be doing so for the foreseeable future. Brazil and South Africa could breathe again.
Cipro to Cipla
As could India. Bill Haddad the chair of the general pharmaceutical industry association (GPIA) contacted Yusuf Hamied the CEO of Cipla, an Indian pharmaceutical company about the possibilities of making Triple Therapy at an affordable price.
After a lot of brinkmanship, Hamied finally put a dollar a day price on the table. This was still more than many Africans could afford but cheap enough that Bill Clinton and George Bush could not afford to be seen to walk by.
Without Osama bin Laden none of this is likely to have happened.
Mind you taking the same approach to analysing events, he could probably also be held responsible for Project Bioshield and the Global Health Security Agenda which dictate the volume of vaccines Westerners currently get and may be playing some part in rising autistic spectrum and auto-immune disorders. Maybe as a result of all Americans ending up neurodiverse, at some point the soldiers of the Caliphate will be able to march in and occupy the World Trade Center – but that’s stretching things a bit too far surely.
There are much more solid grounds than this to think bin Laden and Hamied contributed to thousands of American deaths and counting…
To be continued.