Thursday, October 31, 2013

I'm today's go-to-expert on yesterday's battle over "penicillin-for-all" - by default

While I consider myself the world's leading expert on the wartime battle over the principle of penicillin for all, I also recognize I am also probably the only person in the world who gives a tinker's damn over that 75 year old battle.

A pity that.

Because there are still lessons for today in that old battle, particularly with regards to drugs now costing cancer patients $300,000 a year per person.

For when the wartime general public bested the scientific elites and Big Pharma over the principle of penicillin-for-all, it changed our whole world for the better, forever , in ways few then imagined.

Because penicillin remained totally in the public domain and now had the entire world's public loudly clambering for it, its cost fell quickly to record low levels for such an effective, safe lifesaver.

It was thus given to the poorest patient in the most remote parts of the world , people normally left untreated due to cost.

It thereby knocked out the traditional residual pools for virulent strains of bacteria that kept their names household scourges by remaining endemic or epidemic for millenniums.

Millions were directly treated by penicillin G to save their lives but billions of us indirectly benefited - free of charge ! - by a form of quasi-herd immunity.

As we move to rationing expensive drugs, let us ask ourselves if the example of the battle over wartime penicillin does not suggest a better way ...

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