Bizarre Headline: “Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs” into Africa

January 25, 2013
Ocean

“Big Pharma” patrols the high seas in search of plunder and patent infringement.

This headline comes to us from the venerable Democracy Now! news hour of January 23, 2013:

“Fire in the Blood”: Millions Die in Africa After Big Pharma Blocks Imports of Generic AIDS Drugs

When I saw this headline rolling up my facebook feed as most shared from Democracy Now!, two thoughts hit me almost at once.

The first thought was that Democracy Now! is to be commended for bringing this monumental story to us. Millions of people are out there dying, and I haven’t heard boo about it from any other media source. This is standard fare. If you want to get the scoop, tune into Democracy Now!

To understand my second thought, you must realize that I am a libertarian Juris Doctor. As a law guy, I tend to take things rather literally. So upon encountering a headline alleging that Big Pharma is blocking imports of generic drugs, I promptly envision the private fleet of pirates that Pfizer and AstraZeneca must have hired to swashbuckle and maraud and pillage the vessels of competing merchants. I delighted in this anti-corporate progressive fantasy for about ten seconds before hypothesizing the reality:

“Big Pharma isn’t blocking anything,” I suspected. “I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that some government is blocking those imports at Big Pharma’s behest, and I’ll have to see the story to find out which one and why.”  Read the rest of this entry »