Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lifesaving 'too cheap to meter:' the legacy of the smallest Manhattan Project

Remember that solemn pledge from the biggest Manhattan Project ?

After killing a few hundred thousand civilians overseas, they promised to make up for it by offering us endless, abundant, safe electricity at prices 'too cheap to meter'.

They were joking, right ?!

By contrast, consider the legacy of the smallest Manhattan Project.

It has offered us decades of lifesaving at prices 'too cheap to meter'.

That is an amazing feat considering it was performed against the combined resistance from the biggest of the wartime Allied  governments and from many politically powerful firms in wartime's Big Pharma.

Penicillin, more than 85 years after its initial discovery, still can stop cold the toughest bacterial infections going, and do so at prices dirt cheap, offering us true life saving at prices too cheap to meter.

Contrast that to today's to cancer drugs,  averaging at costs between $100,000 to $350,000 a year, that can only promise to extent the average life by about four months.

This is because natural penicillin was born in the public domain, born the original genetic drug , and Man failed totally to synthesize it and expensively patent it.

Penicillin is often called the miracle drug and perhaps its biggest miracle was economic, not medical : it could be given the opportunity to save hundreds of millions worldwide because it wasn't priced like Avastin but rather was almost as cheap as water.

(A real miracle - and I repeat, it almost didn't happen, we almost lost inexpensive penicillin.)

That was because our busy wartime Allied bureaucrats and busy wartime drug executives spent zillions in scarce tax dollars to try to synthesize and patent penicillin rather than getting down to doing Job One with readily available natural penicillin.

Their Job One and Two and Three should have been saving lives in a worldwide war crisis.

Henry Dawson's 'Penicillin-for-all' did not just mean making it available to all at a steep price, like Avastin : it meant making it available to all patients, at a price even the poorest can afford...

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