The new drug war: Hard pills to swallow

LOUIS MACHOGU, the owner of a pharmacy near Nairobi, has noticed a change. In the past decade Kenya, like much of Africa, has seen a surge in foreign aid to fight infectious diseases. Thanks to antiretroviral treatments, HIV is no longer a death sentence. But the decline of one scourge means that people are living long enough to fall sick in other ways. “The same way we had HIV killing people,” Dr Machogu says, “we now have hypertension and cancer.”Treatment often depends on the whim of pharmaceutical firms’ philanthropic programmes. Cancer drugs are particularly lacking. The Kenya Medical Supplies Agency buys medicines for public hospitals, but not those for cancer.In Tampa, Florida, Marilyn Weisman also depends on charity for treatment. The 72-year-old thought she had a bad rash. She turned out to have cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare cancer. Though she is insured, she could not afford her share of the payment for the drug her doctors recommended. So a pharmacist at her hospital, Moffitt Cancer Centre, helped her to apply for charitable aid. Mrs Weisman’s situation is surprisingly common for American cancer sufferers. Many insured patients in one of the world’s…

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