Sunday, April 02, 2006

Poor diseases

In one very limited sense one is better of contracting HIV rather than malaria or sleeping sickness. That's because wealthy gay men contract HIV and treatments have been devised to tap into that wealth. The New York Times discusses this here.

The profit motive fails to address important human health needs.

AIDs as a disease is taken seriously - at least among adults - because it is a disease of the rich. But children in developing countries who contract the disease (700,000 last year) don't do well because there is no money in it.

Malaria was effectively dealt with by chloroquine until the parasite established a resistance to it. Sufferers in Africa would be better off if the disease had not been eradicated in rich countries.

Sleeping sickness - the second most deadly parasitic disease after malaria, but confined to African countries, was largely ignored until a fashion magazine revealled it delayed facial hair growth. It is now being sold where it is really needed.

Treatments for other 'poor people' diseases (Kala Azar, TB, Chagas' Disease) are largely just neglected because the associated suffering does not translate into bucks.

1 comment:

derrida derider said...

Its worse than that. The profit imperative means drug companies look for ongoing treatments - palliatives rather than cures or (worse) preventatives. That HIV can be kept in check only by lifelong dosages of multiple drugs is wonderful for them - something that cured it simply and permanently (a la stomach ulcers and Helicobacter) would ruin the market.

You can bet that not much of their research spending on AIDS goes on vaccines rather than new suppressants - we have to depend on state funding for that.