A Human Price on Drugs

5 03 2007

By Derek Beres

My eyes were really opened to the problems of malaria in Africa when being asked to produce an album by Malian artist Vieux Farka Toure. The label, an hungry upstart in Brooklyn called Modiba Productions, made sure each record they release supports a population other than our own. Their first charity outing raised over $140,000 to date for relief funds in Darfur, and considering the weight of Farka Toure’s name – and that his debut, licensed via World Village, is the highest-selling album in the first month in that label’s history – their efforts to directly buy 15,000 mosquito nets for residents in Niafunke is quickly becoming a reality.

Their preventive efforts are astounding, but do not help those already stricken the illness. As Jesse Brenner, president of Modiba recently said on a radio interview we did on WNYU’s Passport, malaria is easily treated – if you have the money for medicine. Hence, the problem. So I was extremely relieved to read about French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis’ move to create a medicine specifically for malaria-stricken Africans that cannot afford proper treatment. They will be selling the medicine at cost, making absolutely no profit from the drug (except in areas of the world that can afford to pay for the medicine, which is a fair exchange). As Jill wrote about in a previous post, it is up to corporations to balance profit sharing and use their leverage to help those in need of their science and technology. Helping others in need isn’t charity, it’s common sense. Nice to see that quality dawning upon some of the big players in these industries.

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