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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bird Flu: Will the poor be left to die?

Just who will get access to bird flu drugs and who won't? Currently, the rich countries are busy buying up all the Tamiflu while the poor countries, particularly those of Southeast Asia (where bird flu has been spreading), are coming up short. The Philippine's Health Secretary recently conceded that they had no stocks of the drug. When new supplies of Tamiflu arrived in New Zealand, which has enough money to buy up some of the dwindling supplies, they were all snatched up by panicking citizens within two days.

In a country like the US, with a disintigrating health care infrastructure and a sizeable population without health care, private stocks are likely to go to those with insurance or the money to get them. Meanwhile, the international community and national governments have reassured Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, that its patents (profits) will be respected, and no one will be allowed to make a cheap generic available. With the market assured that the elite have their priorities straight (profit before people), shares of MedImmune, a company planning to manufacture a dubious vaccine, hit a new year high.

Today, Indonesia reported that it was treating 57 people for suspected bird flu, a massive surge in the number of infections worldwide.


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