January 30, 2009 at 8:35 pm (Bad Science, Big Pharma, Code of Ethics, Dangerously Wrong, Homeopathy, Woo) (Africa, Aids Drugs, Antiretroviral, ARVs, Big Pharma, Brazil, HIV, Homeopathy, India, Jeremy Sherr, Nevirapine, Pharmaceutical Firms, Tom Smith, Viramune)
This was (roughly) a question asked on Gimpy’s blog by a supporter of homeopathy regarding Aids in Africa.One reader posted this: “Those who oppose Mr. Sherr’s use of homeopathy to help aids victims in Africa – what is Big Pharma’s solution. What is your solution, besides attacking?” [I think it probably includes using ARVs, Rob – and I expect they work a damn sight better than magic water.] Another made this point:
In addressing the “ethical” issue of Jeremy Sherr helping those with AIDS who seek out his care (remember, we do still have a choice of what type of medication to take), I think it is unethical of the drug companies to not provide the drugs free of charge when they easily could. What is THEIR plan for AIDS in Africa, or don’t we know that because they can’t figure out how to do it and make Billions of dollars.
1. Referring to the actions of drug companies unconnected to Sherr does not qualify as “addressing the “ethical” issue of Jeremy Sherr helping those with AIDS”.
2. Suggesting that pharma firms provide free drugs to those with Aids in Africa actually seems like quite a good idea to me. Of course, pharmaceutical firms are in it for the money (they are businesses, not charities) but it is fair, in my opinion, that they should be asked to provide free Aids drugs in countries in the developing world. The suggestion also reminded me of a column by Dr Tom Smith:
[…] how many people know that a dreaded disease was consigned to history in more than 16 countries this year? It’s called filariasis, and the worm larva that causes it produces ‘elephantiasis’ – huge swellings of the legs and other body parts – that totally disables the person unfortunate enough to catch it.
It used to rage around the South Pacific islands and most of Africa. The South Pacific is now free of it, and so are Sri Lanka, Zanzibar and Togo.
That doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, but when you consider that only a few years ago it affected 120 million people worldwide, you get some idea of the massive success story. Much of the credit must go to the pharmaceutical companies who provided the drugs to kill the filaria – free of charge. One of them was the United Kingdom’s Glaxo Smith Kline. Why is it that the media never seem to give credit where it is due?
[The above quote has been reproduced from the Telegraph and Argus website: full column here. jdc makes no claims as to the accuracy or quality of the sites he links to (heh – how’s that for BBC-style weaselling out of your responsibility for linking to other sites).]
So, Tom Smith gives Big Pharma credit where it’s due – but what about that suggestion to give Aids drugs out for free? Well, there is a note in this here post that informs us of drug companies giving away a drug called Nevirapine, “a follow-up drug (with its own side effect problems, it goes without saying) in a single dose reduces maternal HIV transmission from 25% to 15%. It’s given away free for that purpose by the drug company”. More here. There’s another story here about an Indian pharmaceutical company providing anti-Aids drugs at a fraction of the going rate but before anyone gets too carried away with these stories of the generosity and decency of Big Pharma I should point out that not all of the stories in the news have been positive – Glaxo-Wellcome has blocked imports of cheap copies of one of its Aids drugs into Ghana (story from 2000). It’s not all good, but the fact that there have been drug companies giving away Aids drugs in some parts of the world is excellent news and not something that should be ignored. People may think that more should be done and they may wish to support the efforts of governments that have been proactive in attempting to provide a supply of free drugs – for example Brazil or India – but:
“There are 21 AIDS drugs on the market that will all lose their patents eventually. Companies already offer AIDS drugs such as Nevirapine for free in over 40 countries.” Since July 2000, Boehringer Ingelheim has been providing its antiretroviral drug Viramune free of charge to developing countries to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV-1.
(From the Journal of Clinical Investigation). A little googling is all it took to find that some drug companies do indeed provide free Aids drugs in developing coutries.
More on Aids, Big Pharma, and Alternative Medicine:
Gimpy’s Sherr post; Matthias Rath on BadScience.net; the price is right on BadScience.net (it’s about Abbott and Kaletra); “Homeopaths would be fine, if they could just shut up about serious stuff, like Aids, malaria, and MMR.”; Aids Quackery International Tour.