Ron Woodroof fought for the right to use non-FDA approved drugs as a means of treatment after he was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s. As a result, he began distributing experimental drugs to AIDS patients who were unable to acquire them at hospitals. Woodroof’s legacy lives on in the 2013 film, “Dallas Buyers Club,” directed by Jean-Marc Vallée.
The film opens with Woodroof’s diagnosis; he’s given 30 days to live. Thinking he’s a homosexual, his friends and coworkers ostracize him. When Woodroof finally seeks treatment, he is put on AZT, the only FDA-approved drug in America at the time, but this only worsens his condition. Woodroof eventually travels to Mexico to find help, and there he’s treated with ddC and peptide T, drugs not approved by the FDA.
After three months on these new drugs, Woodroof’s condition improves and it occurs to him that he can make money smuggling ddC and peptide T into America for other HIV patients. He teams up with Rayon, an HIV positive trans woman, who helps Woodroof get inside the gay community. Together, Ron and Rayon form the Dallas Buyers Club, which provides the non-approved drugs to HIV patients at a price. The club becomes very successful, but is short-lived, as the FDA is constantly trying to find ways to shut them down and make it harder for Woodroof to sell his own drugs.
Woodroof attempts to sue the FDA, seeking the right to take peptide T, which at this point has been proven to be a non-toxic drug. Although he loses the court case, it is stated at the end of the film that Woodroof was eventually able to take peptide T for his own personal use up until his death. He was also one of the main reasons that hospitals in America would eventually reduce the dosage of AZT it would administer to its patients after the drug was found to be toxic.
Dallas Buyers Club is based on a true story about what can happen to American patients when their health care system is fraught with bureaucratic roadblocks. The government spends more than 50 per cent of all health care dollars and costs have been driven up by the FDA’s actions and deprived Americans of much-needed treatments.
The FDA’s regulations are not only limited to drugs used for treatment. Earlier this year, the FDA announced deeming regulations, which could force all e-cigarettes that came on the market after the year 2007 to go through the Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA), which would cost millions. Seeing as e-cigarettes have only recently risen to popularity, hardly any business would avoid PMTA let alone be able to handle the regulatory burden. Luckily, The House of Appropriations Committee recently passed an amendment that would change the predicate date for vapor products. Although the amendment is not yet law, it will now have the chance to be voted on in the House of Representatives.
Sugar has also received the illegal drug treatment with attempts to ban soda in cities such as New York. The FDA now plans to overhaul food labels, highlighting added sugars and adjust the serving size to what the average person consumes. The new labeling is not only meant to encourage consumers to make healthier choices, but attempts to force manufacturers to reformulate existing products by reducing their sugar intake. America may be suffering from an obesity crisis, but is controlling what we eat and forcing companies to change their products the answer? What about the healthy individuals who sometimes like to treat themselves to a box of doughnuts once in awhile?
Going back to Dallas Buyers Club and access to medication, the FDA luckily has made recent changes to its compassionate use policy, making it easier for Americans with life-threatening illnesses to acquire experimental drugs. The new policy significantly reduces the amount of paperwork needed to attain the drug for patients who are running out of time and have tried other conventional methods of treatment. This could be positive step forward to those like Ron Woodroof, whose lifespan was significantly increased through the use of experimental drugs. Giving Americans more choice in what they can consume may be a crazy enough idea to save lives.