The film “Dallas Buyers Club”, starring Matthew McConauhey in his Academy Award winning role, is about Ron Woodroof, a man exposed to the AIDS virus who starts a buyers club – a network of infected individuals that help each other get life-saving medication.
The homophobic, free wheeling cowboy Ron contracts the HIV virus through the casual sex he has on a regular basis. The disease, stigmatized at the time as a “gay man’s” ailment, forces Ron into personal hiding, as he’s affronted with homophobic slurs despite his heterosexual lifestyle.
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.
Thought y’all might be interested in checking out this new video from the Mercatus Center. Bob Graboyes’s metaphor of the Frontier vs the Fortress is a really insightful tool to look at ANY heavily-regulated industry, not just healthcare.
In debates about ideology, left or right, what’s often missed by both sides is the narrative, the emotional and experiential realities of policy. When we let fear of failure dominate our thinking, we are inexorably led to protecting ourselves and others from those failures. We often miss the fact that this protection, which seems a costless benefit, keeps us locked in a kind of creative prison. In order for creatives to use their imagination to solve problems and promote growth, opportunity and prosperity, we have to be ok with risk, and by virture of that risk, failure. While that may seem dangerous in areas like healthcare, where failure can mean death, we have to hold in our minds that putting our society’s creative minds in a prison also leads to death. As the FDA onerously tests drugs for years (saving people from bad drugs that could harm them), people suffering from conditions who are denied those drugs during the testing process experience harm and death while waiting. The notion that the fortress protects us is an illusion.
While it may be difficult and seem dangerous, we have to believe in the human capacity for creative thought. The innate human drive to the frontier, to exploration and achievement, is ultimately the only resource that can generate solutions that revolutionize life for all.