Fire in the Blood

Evil is the only word for Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and the other international pharma companies that fought tooth and nail to protect their patents on AIDS antiretroviral drugs while ten million died of the disease in the Third World. This infuriating documentary by Dylan Mohan Gray chronicles the long battle to make generic ARVs available to poor African countries, which big pharma resisted because cheap drugs would undermine their bloated pricing here in the U.S. Of course the federal government supported this unconscionable arrangement—though, as the documentary points out, Washington was more than willing to suspend patents on drugs needed during the post-9/11 anthrax scares. The Clinton Foundation gets a few points for its scheme of pooling poor nations’ resources to bargain with the pharmas, but the genuine hero here is Peter Mugyenyi, a Ugandan physician who managed to break the industry’s blockade against generic drugs from India. The profiteering continues, as the World Trade Organization ruthlessly enforces patents on other life-saving drugs needed in the Third World. William Hurt narrates. 83 min.