Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
The Indian Express rating: ***1/2
That Big Pharma almost always equates to Evil Pharma is something weve always been aware of in a subterranean manner. But to have it said out loud in a documentary backed by solid,detailed research is rare. Dylan Mohan Grays important award-winning film Fire In The Blood raises difficult questions and finds that the answers are not as simple. Or easy.
Drug pricing has always been a contentious issue. And the majority of pharmaceutical multinationals have been zealous in guarding the price line to such absurd limits that those who live beneath poverty lines have had no access to expensive drugs. Fire In The Blood talks to people affected by the AIDS virus,and those who are engaged in bringing succour to them officials,NGOs,and other organisations in Asia and Africa. And comes to the inescapable conclusion: that millions of lives could have been saved if the rampaging greed of the pharma companies,and their cohorts in high places,had been replaced by the desire to save lives.
The hero of the 1.5-hour film is Yusuf Hamied,the chairman of Cipla,a company founded by his father in the 1930s. Gray,who is married to one of Hamieds nieces,gets access (and doubtless,difficult-to-reach information) and shows us how overpriced drugs can kill,and how simple it is to prolong lives if the imperative is humanitarian rather than financial .Ciplas generic inexpensive antiretroviral drugs (priced at a fraction of the branded medicine) were a true game changer in the ’90s. Suddenly,lives that were considered lost were being saved. As a bright-eyed AIDS survivor in Tamil Nadu,who caught the virus from her infected husband (who died within a few months of the marriage),says: I was supposed to be dead,but look,I am not!
It is that human,humane spirit that Dylans film celebrates. Some of it comes off bland,but then it works for the film. Too much stridency can become alienating.
Lowcost generic drugs are as safe and effective as the criminally expensive branded ones. And all human life is sacred. This is the clear message from Fire In The Blood,and it bears telling. And re-telling.