Bitter Pill to Swallow

Oct 18 2013, 13:08 IST
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Still from the film Fire In The Blood Still from the film Fire In The Blood
SummaryDylan Mohan Grayís film Fire In The Blood talks about how low-cost drugs are prevented from reaching the customers

All companies want profits, but the difference here is that these giant pharma companies are addicted to irrational profits, which are only possible because government-granted monopolies preclude competition and allow them to charge whatever they like

44-year-old Dylan Mohan Grayís Fire In The Blood tells the story of how pharmaceutical corporations in the West are preventing low-cost drugs from reaching Africa and other developing countries. Interviews with Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Joseph Stiglitz document a united opposition to the monopoly of the pharma companies over life-saving drugs. After gathering rave reviews at film festivals worldwide, the film released in India at PVR Directorís Rare on October 11.

Has the film made an impact?

In early April, not long after we released the film in the UK and Ireland, there was a big story in the British media. Novartis had lost a crucial court case over its monopoly in India on an extremely expensive cancer drug called Glivec. Normally that story would not have received much coverage, but it was on the front pages in the UK. I definitely feel that the Fire In The Blood screenings played a key role in helping the media understand why this case was so important.

The film makes uncomfortable allegations about the practices of pharmaceutical companies. Have you faced any backlash?

As the former Vice President of Pfizer says in the film, the companies are not overly concerned about their public image, since they have monopolies and their customers generally have little or no choice in terms of buying their product. Their power is derived from political influence, and they feel very confident that their control over policy makers, especially in the US and other countries with giant pharma conglomerates, is just about as strong as it can be. But no, I have not been directly threatened by anyone.

You have worked on films with Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair. Have you tackled similar issues in the past?

No, I made a few short and simple documentaries a long time ago, and Iíve worked on a few others as a cameraman, but Fire In The Blood is my first feature-length film as writer-director.

The film primarily deals with how pharma companies prevent low-cost drugs from entering Africa. Why have they neglected India?

There is no neglect, only cold-blooded intent. All companies want profits, but the difference here is that these giant pharma companies are addicted to irrational profits, which are only

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