December 11, 2016
“The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin’s television series about a fictional White House, had a knack for crisply summarizing complex real-life issues. In an episode from 2000, pharmaceutical executives and leaders of an AIDS-plagued African country are summoned to the White House. The purpose is to see if reluctant businessmen can be persuaded to sell the Africans desperately needed drugs at a modest price…….
Tensions inherent to drug pricing — that 4-cent second pill versus the $400 million first one — underpin this final installment in the current series of Retro Report videos, which examine major news stories of the past and their lasting consequences. To highlight how the ground has shifted in the pharmaceutical world, the video recalls Dr. Jonas Salk, the creator of the first successful vaccine against polio in the 1950s. Dr. Salk’s conquest of this crippling and often deadly disease made him revered even beyond his death in 1995. One poll at the close of the 20th century showed that he was deemed, far and away, the greatest person in medicine over the last thousand years, ahead of Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie and Alexander Fleming.