Thursday, October 31, 2013

World's most effective lifesaver is also the most beloved AND the cheapest

That's not at all like Big Pharma, the world's least beloved industry.

Usually their effective lifesavers cost a big fortune and their ineffective ones merely cost a small fortune.

By contrast, our beloved inexpensive penicillin G has seen wide use among the world's poorest patients and as a result  billions of us have had a 'free ride' :  a quasi-herd immunity to millennium old contagious bacterial infections like Rheumatic Fever.

Diseases today most of us under the age of 50 have never even heard of and most doctors have never seen.

But it almost didn't happen ; we almost lost inexpensive- penicillin-for-all

At the height of WWII, when the only other anti-bacterial agent, the Sulfa drugs, were visibly failing, Big Pharma in Britain and America held off mass production of the only alternative (Penicillin) until they had synthesized it and patented it.

Meanwhile , in the middle of that desperate world war, American and British diplomats sat down to leisurely haggle over how to divide the massive world profits on synthetic penicillin ; visions of post-war sugar plums dancing through their heads.

Now you don't have to be a student of foreign affairs to suspect that America is very, very, very reluctant to sign international treaties --- so this alone suggests how profitable the two superpowers thought patented penicillin would be.

That could only mean sticker shock at the drugstore cash register for ordinary families, of course.

And the world's poor ? Forget it !

One doctor bucked the combined Anglo-American scientific-medical establishment ,and eventually when even Doctor Moms joined in,  the American politicos smelling electoral disaster backed off.

The British politicians did not and the election shock of 1945 was the price they paid.

The story of the smallest Manhattan Project and its battle for inexpensive-penicillin-for-all is fascinating  ---- and almost totally unknown even to penicillin historians....

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