Op-Ed: Big Pharma & Gene Therapy

LocalOrg
by Tony Cartalucci

I just recently watched a TED Talk – this was the CEO of Bluebird Bio – a pharmaceutical and biotech company – talking about their work on gene therapies.

These are cures that work on the first shot – correcting your condition or augmenting your body to repair itself on the genetic level. One shot and you are cured for life – more or less – because the corrected cells then multiple, carrying the corrections on in each additional cell.

The work for now can be a bit primitive, but the technology is already drastically changing lives for the better.

It is nothing short of revolutionary – it stands to change humanity forever – and if Bluebird Bio doesn’t do it, someone else eventually will. The problem is obvious though, these cures may cost a lot to develop but once they are perfected, they cost relatively very little to produce and give to patients compared to traditional and less effective therapies. And when they are given to patients, it is a one time deal.

Realizing this prompted the CEO of Bluebird Bio to say something very questionable – claiming that by fixing a patient on the genetic level, they will from then on be producing his corporation’s drug (though not really since it is not a drug, it is corrected DNA) and while he doesn’t come right out and say it, anyone familiar with big-pharma and big-biotech’s method of operation knows that they expect you to pay for it … for life.

And so that is how big-pharma plans to continue rolling in piles of money even when technology makes it possible to permanently cure people with a single shot, by extorting people literally like a cartoon villain – demanding “1 million dollars” per life-saving shot – the subject of a previously published report titled, “Big Pharma Dangles Life and Death Over Patients’ Heads.”

There is indeed the valid argument that these treatments cost money to research and develop, and the people involved in doing so deserve to profit from them. And I agree, but guess what? The government gives these corporations millions of dollars through all sorts of grants every year so they can do just that.

Here is just one announcement of Bluebird Bio getting just such a grant from the Government of California, “Bluebird Bio Awarded $9.3 Million From the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to Further Gene Therapy Clinical Development,” an announcement made in 2012, the same year Bluebird’s CEO was on stage giving his Ted Talk.

Surely society would be all for giving even more money toward this sort of research – something the government should  be doing instead of spending literally a trillion dollars on a single weapons system – like the F-35. But then there is the reality that greed prevails, and special interests rule.

People have got to get informed on gene therapy – it will change humanity forever and whoever controls it controls humanity’s future. That being the case, the people should be the one’s wielding it, not a handful of corporations dangling life over the heads of sick kids so they can please their investors and stay in business.

I admittedly don’t know the whole story about Bluebird – I’d hate to say they were corrupt and greedy if they were really doing everything they could within a system that is itself backwards … but it was difficult to listen to their TED Talk and not walk away feeling I’ve just been extorted. If you hold the keys to saving lives, you must unlock the door, handsomely rewarded or not. And part of being a “good guy,” is taking it upon yourself to create a better system within which life-saving research can move forward without parasitical investors demanding immense profits in return at the expense of both ethics and progress. 

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