A letter from an alumnus aboutAmy Kapczynski 96 and AIDS
March 17, 2002
Regarding Amy Kapczynski 96 (class
note feature, March 13), AIDS in Africa is a biological holocaust.
The richer, healthier nations should be providing far more money, medicine,
and other forms of help. So Amy Kapczynskis activism pressuring
a drug maker to forgo patent protection in South Africa and thus permit
cheaper generic forms is well intended. I hope her efforts do much
But the article about her is flawed. Reporters must present both sides;
in this case, the author presents only one. She establishes Bristol-Myers
Squibb as the other side and implies that the company, profit-driven,
resisted until it caved in to public opinion. How profitable any health
care enterprise ought to be is an important question, but the writer should
have reported BMSs perspective. If she had learned about the companys
HIV/AIDS programs and its initiatives to get therapies to poor Africans,
she would have given readers a fuller, truer picture.
As a consultant to drug-makers, including BMSs Pharmaceutical Research
Institute, I know two things. First, to discover, make, test, gain approval
for, and market drugs requires lots of people, time, money, and science.
Second, if the pubic sector does not subsidize the creation and provision
of medicines, there will no drugs without profits and no profits without
To oversimplify is to distort, and theres no surer cause of over-simplification
than not to tell both sides.