By Don Simpson | September 5, 2013
Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Few things illustrate the inherent greed and selfishness of Capitalism as strikingly as the United States government’s elitist attitude towards the devastation of the AIDS epidemic in third world nations. Unwilling to bite the hands that overstuff their pockets, U.S. politicians refuse to do anything about the archaic, over-reaching patent legislation that criminalizes the international sale of affordable generic versions of drugs to which they inherited the patents during acquisitions not R&D. Because of the grossly inflated pricing for their brand name AIDS treatments, millions of people are dying every year. All the while, generic drug manufacturers are willing and able to sell the treatments for a small fraction of the cost, only factoring in the cost of the ingredients into their pricing. But since U.S. patent legislation extends internationally, the most needy countries cannot access the generic versions of the drugs because of the draconian U.S. law that effectively gives Pfizer a monopoly on an entire continent (Africa).
While very traditional and dry in delivery, the subject matter of Fire in the Blood is persuasive enough to ignite a fiery passion under the collective butts of its audience. Because of the obscene amounts of money that big pharma funnels into the US government, patent legislation is never going to change, unless a massive uprising occurs. But even though most citizens of the U.S. know that successful treatments against AIDS were developed in the 1990s, it does not seem to be common knowledge that the treatments are not available to everyone. The pricing of the treatments is overtly classist, favoring the lives of the affluent over the underprivileged. The most susceptible populations are the same ones that cannot access the medication. If U.S. citizens actually knew what their government was doing, maybe they would grow more irate; but as compliant capitalists, they become just as guilty as big pharma.
Most of the world listened back in 2003, as President George W. Bush announced the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan) to provide AIDS medications to the third world; however, few people actually paid attention to the aftermath of that speech. Bush selected Randall L. Tobias (former Eli Lilly and Company executive) as the first Global AIDS Coordinator in charge of PEPFAR. With the fox in the henhouse, big pharma controlled the plan, effortlessly steering it towards charging the U.S. government for their hefty per-patient rate for the brand name version of the medicine, rather than allowing generic versions to be provided. This drastically limited the reach of Bush’s plan until the distribution of generic medicines was finally integrated into the plan in late 2005.
Fire in the Blood presents a series of logical and intelligent rebuttals to U.S. patent laws, suggesting the “public health emergency” loophole that would allow patents to be negated in order to prevent the death of millions of human beings. The U.S. government recently made this exception to the patent for anthrax medication, allowing other drug manufacturers to produce and sell it. So, a precedent has been established — and anthrax has effected astronomically fewer people than AIDS.
Dylan Mohan Gray’s documentary also attacks the profit margin over life mentality of the so-called “free market,” in which big pharma’s executives and shareholders’ bank accounts are deemed more important than the lives of the poor. Class and race issues are paramount to this problem, as is the self-ordained role of the U.S. as the international policer of drug manufacturing and medical patents.