Director Dylan Mohan Gray does a superb job of clearly and convincingly chronicling the unconscionable actions of Big Pharma, Pfizer in particular. Once a three drug combination proved effective against AIDS, rather than rushing to help those dying in huge numbers, especially in South Africa, companies defended profits through strategic patent defenses.
Throughout "Fire in the Blood," Gray uses statistics to make his case, focusing primarily on Africa and secondarily on India. For example, the World Health Organization estimates that at least 18 million people have died of treatable and preventable diseases because of their lack of access to medicine. But capsules that cost US companies five cents to produce cost South Africans up to $40 each, where the weekly wage averages $68. But when Yusuf Hamied of the East Indian company Cipla wanted to provide the ARV cocktail for $1 a day, Pharma companies fought Cipla's production of affordable generics through patent legalities (a "trade terrorism" story in itself).
Gray analyzes the familiar defenses by drug companies: money is needed to invest in research. In fact, they spend more on marketing through media, to doctors, etc. than on research. Government and public sources fund 85%, Pharma invests 12%, 1.3% for new drug discovery.
Gray presents his case through archival footage and numerous interviews with Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Yusuf Hamied, South African activists Zackie Akmat and James Love, Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, doctors, and Pharma defenders. The beautiful cinematography contrasts sharply with the dire situation, driving home the point: we can and must do better.
The St. Louis premiere of "Fire in the Blood" is at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 7th through Sunday, February 9th. For more information, you may call 314-968-7487 or on the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.