Fire In The Blood is an in depth look at the Western pharmaceutical industry and the way in which it manipulates global availability and costs of life saving drugs to further it’s own interests.
As narrator William Hurt (The Host, The Incredible Hulk) so neatly states, “If it is true that one death is a tragedy and a million deaths is a statistic, this is a story about statistics.”
In 1996, with millions of people all over the world afflicted with and dying from HIV and AIDS, finally a light appeared at the end of the tunnel, when a new combination of three drugs, known collectively as anti-retro virals (HIV is a retro virus) was introduced.
However, there was a catch. As explained by Justice Cameron, a South African judge who was himself suffering from the disease, the cost of the drugs was equivalent to one third of his judicial salary, therefore well out of the reach of the majority of those in need of treatment.
And this is main point of this documentary. Because the cost of creating the drugs is a fraction of the price charged by the pharmaceutical companies. In order to protect their own potential future markets and profits, all the drugs were put under patent, making it illegal for other countries to produce “generics” (i.e. identical yet cheaper versions of the drug).
So began a gargantuan effort on behalf of brave individuals from many countries, attempting to get the laws changed and make the drugs available to their people, who were still dying in their millions due to lack of funds. Some of these were high profile, such as Zackie Achmat, who boycotted taking the drugs for himself until they were made available to everyone and who had the support of Nelson Mandela, as well Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Joseph Stiglitz. Many others were less public, but no less important, the tireless work by CIPLA, an Indian pharmaceutical company, to change the patent laws so that generics could be made available everywhere.
For a time they were even successful, under the George W. Bush administration and with the help of the Clinton Foundation, but on watching this film it is almost unbelievable the depths to which the pharmaceutical industries and Western (most notably US) governments were prepared to stoop to ensure their continued profit margins. The inhumanity of their approach to this situation is very sad but not as surprising as it should be, with even the World Trade Organisation getting in on the act.
There are flaws to this film. There are obviously plenty of other issues to consider which are not touched on here. I also feel that it is pretty one sided, but then maybe it needs to be. It is rather long for a production of this type and it does lose some of it’s impact on account of that fact.
However, all that being said, this is a real eye opener and a chilling insight into the mindset of Western industry, which I strongly feel everyone would benefit from seeing, definitely one to watch.
Fire In The Blood is available to buy now on DVD