Film dares to show health in the real world

Film and journalists can uniquely reveal the drama and complexity of ensuring health breakthroughs reach the poor.

ciplaIndian scientist Yusuf Hamied was a central character in the film Fire in the Blood. The film documents the battle to make AIDS drugs cheap enough for poor countries to afford them, and the story had a clear turning point. In 2001, Hamied, who then headed the Mumbai-based generic pharmaceuticals company Cipla, put the triple antiretroviral (ARV) therapy drug on the market for just under $1 a day.

The decision put life-saving medicine within reach of millions: it cost $350 per patient per year at a time when Western pharmaceutical companies sold the same drugs for around $10,000.

In the film, screened recently (30-31 October) at the Global Health Film Festival in London, Hamied says he acted on humanitarian grounds, and with the firm belief that India needs to be self-reliant when it comes to drugs. “We learned a very important lesson from Mahatma Gandhi … that every country has to decide for themselves their own destiny,” he says. I think it’s a message that applies to health and development more broadly.

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