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