It is a well-known fact that pharmaceutical companies in Europe and America earn huge profits from the sale of life-saving drugs. Branded medicines available for treatment of stubborn diseases like AIDS, Cancer, TB, Diabetes etc. are priced out of reach of poor and middle class patients. Multinational drug companies patent these drugs and then make huge profits from them. Many organizations and individuals in countries including India are fighting against this looting of pharmaceutical companies.
It is said to be a big challenge to weave the story of such a struggle going on in the four continents of the world in the form of a documentary film. Born to a Punjabi father and an Irish mother, Dhillon Mohan Gray’s film ‘Fire in the Blood’ has been released in India after being praised at many foreign film festivals. Since HIV appeared in the African continent in the 1990s, millions of people have succumbed to AIDS. In AD 1996, anti-retroviral drugs, known as ‘ARV’ for short, were invented by multinational companies. These companies used to claim that the HIV patient who takes this medicine is saved from AIDS.
Poor patients in Africa could not afford the drug; But multinational companies were not ready to cut their profits even for the sake of humanity. It is estimated that about one crore AIDS patients died in Africa between 1996 and 2003 due to the lack of this drug. The multinational companies had to bow down as a result of the massive campaign launched by the four agitators from different countries.
In the story of this film, Indian pharmaceutical companies have been very eloquently describing the fact that Indian pharmaceutical companies are making very cheap and effective generic drugs and serving millions of poor patients living in many backward countries of the world. Indian pharmaceutical companies are selling generic drugs cheaply in Europe and America. Multinational drug companies are hatching all kinds of conspiracies to eliminate them, but they have not been able to stop the progress of Indian pharmaceutical companies in any way.
Indian generic drug companies are challenging multinational companies there by exporting drugs to America. In 2003, the then US President George Bush announced a government aid of 15 billion dollars to fight the HIV-AIDS epidemic. With this amount, they wanted to buy expensive ‘ARV’ drugs manufactured by American pharmaceutical companies and provide free treatment to poor patients. It was during this period that Indian pharmaceutical companies entered the US market with generic ‘ARV’ drugs, which were comparatively very cheap. The US government also used 15 billion dollars to buy these cheap generic drugs.
In the 1990s, when millions of people in Africa were dying of AIDS, Desmond Tutu, who was fighting for human rights, and the chairman of the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla, Dr. Yusuf Hameed came to his aid. The company Cipla made generic drugs to fight AIDS, which were available at one-tenth the price of drugs from multinational companies. When American drug companies were looted, they filed claims against the Indian company in the American court. Former US President Bill Clinton, intellectual property rights humanitarian lawyer James Love and New York Times journalist Donald McNeil got tremendous support in this fight. As a result of the struggle of these social workers, millions of African patients were saved from death.
Multinational companies from Europe and America are fighting against generic drugs in India to keep their tyrannical profits intact. Switzerland’s ‘Novartis’ company makes a drug called ‘Gleevec’ for the treatment of blood cancer. If a patient takes Glivec treatment for a month, the cost is around one lakh rupees, but his life is saved. A company in India made a similar drug under a different brand name, which cost around ten thousand rupees a month. The ‘Novartis’ company fought against the Indian company up to the Supreme Court, but in the end the Swiss company lost.
Indian companies have started selling cheap generic drugs in the US market, which has also created a huge attraction among the American people for generic drugs, which are cheaper than branded drugs. 290 generic drugs are being sold in the US market today, out of which 110 drugs are manufactured by Indian companies. If the patients of India also understand the importance of generic drugs after watching the film ‘Fire in the Blood’, they will be able to avoid the looting by the pharmaceutical companies. The BJP government has curbed the profits of foreign companies by opening shops selling generic drugs in the country on a large scale.