We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, June 7, 2019

Superbugs in the Anthropocene: A Profit-Driven Plague

Click here to access article by Ian Angus from Monthly Review.

The subject of superbugs is not new, but this author explains why such antibiotic-resistant bugs have appeared. 
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a global health crisis driven by a pharmaceutical and health care system that puts profit before people. In addition to devastating climate change, the Anthropocene may be defined by epidemics that medicine cannot cure.
But this was not inevitable. As Angus further explains:
Those who hailed the first antibiotics as miracle drugs were not wrong. What those chemicals could have been was a way to work with nature, to use natural processes to overcome diseases that had plagued us for thousands of years. Used with appropriate humility and careful stewardship, in conjunction with a global drive to eradicate the conditions that cause infectious diseases, penicillin and its successors could have been boons to humanity for centuries. But that would have required a radically different economy and society.
With ruling capitalist classes' obsession to obtain profits instead of human welfare, such a result was inevitable along with all the other assaults on our habitat that has produced the threats of climate destabilization, environmental pollution, and species extinctions.
Capitalism always operates in the short term and its defenders always insist that new technology will solve any problems that might arise. For several decades, antibiotics seemed to confirm that superstition—for every drug that stopped working, new ones were discovered. But that did not last. The early discoveries were low-hanging fruit and searching the higher branches has been hard and largely unsuccessful.

Mainstream economists like to claim that the market solves all—if there is a need, customer demand will produce solutions. But today, when bacteria have found ways to resist every available antibiotic, most pharmaceutical companies have abandoned the search for others. Not because new antibiotics would not be profitable, but because they would not be profitable enough. Big Pharma makes double-digit profits from drugs it sells for thousands of dollars a dose to patients who must take them frequently for many years. Antibiotics just do not fit that business model.