Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

The Pharma Grinch’s Heart Grows 3 Sizes

Evil heartless No. 4 drug company Sanofi-Aventis came out with a new antimalarial drug that will be delivered at cost to suffering people in Africa. Amazingly, a simple 3 day regimen can cure the disease.

big Canadian mosquitosIt’s nice to see. Malaria’s cost on Africa is monstrous; the deaths are only a fraction of it. The sick are a drain on the economy. Infected children are incapable of learning in school and are therefore less productive down the road.

One of the most innovative elements is their planned distribution. For people who can pay, the company will attempt to charge several times as much per dose. Branding, packaging, prestige – people pay lots more than they have to for Prada bags; why not anti-malarials?

The bigger question for me is: why? What makes Sanofi-Aventis invest the time and money into creating this treatment? Loads of my classmates are into corporate social responsibility – the idea that soulless Capitalist Pig Dogs can be convinced to Do the Right Thing. One of my friends suggested that press (they got NYT editorial applause out of it), altruism and (potential) profit make this an easy win for the company.

Ironically, one of the best treatments for malaria is DDT. Mosquito nets soaked in the stuff coupled with hosing the walls of your hut down with the insecticide can dramatically drop the number of infections. ‘Course, it got a bit of bad press in the 60s – enough to launch the modern environmental movement. But when you’re not blanket spraying across all your crops, it makes a lot of sense.

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