Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Talking Points: The Scandal of 'Poor People's Diseases' by Tina Rosenberg - New York Times

A very well written article on the intersection of diseases of the rich and diseases of the poor. Highly recommended reading...
Talking Points: The Scandal of 'Poor People's Diseases' by Tina Rosenberg - New York Times: "It's hard to imagine how a Rwandan woman with AIDS might be considered lucky, but in a way, she is. Effective drugs exist to treat her disease, and their price has dropped by more than 98 percent in the last six years. Research speeds ahead on treatments and vaccines. Although much more needs to be done, the world takes AIDS seriously: rich countries provide money, drug companies have lowered their prices and accepted generic competition, and poor countries like Rwanda are scrambling to provide free treatment to all who need it. None of this is true for people who suffer from malaria, tuberculosis, or a host of other diseases that citizens of rich countries haven't even heard of – like kala azar, sleeping sickness and Chagas disease. Even children with AIDS are out of luck compared to their parents.

All these diseases have been abandoned in some important way. For some, no good treatments exist and there is little attempt to invent them. For others, effective drugs exist, but aren't being made. Or those drugs are so expensive that poor people and poor countries have no hope of buying them. Most of these diseases are easily preventable and completely curable. Saving the lives of their sufferers is much cheaper and easier than treating AIDS. Yet millions of people die of them. Why the difference?

As fatal illnesses go, AIDS is the best one for a poor person to catch because rich people get it, too. The other diseases might as well hang out a sign: "Poor People Only." They offer researchers no profitable market. They have little political constituency. There is no well-connected group of sufferers who stage protests and lobby pharmaceutical companies and Congress to develop better medicines or make existing ones more available. The response to disease is political: the illnesses of invisible people usually stay invisible."...

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