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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Medicines and Dreams
"Why are medicines so expensive in the United States?" asks -- and answers -- Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner.

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

Why are medicines so expensive in the United States? The short answer has to do with research and development costs. What follows is the long one, crowned with a delightful story.

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is more expensive than the cost of a spoiled child studying abroad. Its usefulness is great, but we are not talking about quality, but price. The bill costs an arm and a leg. It costs approximately 2.6 billion dollars to create a medicine until it is made available to patients who need it through doctors’ prescriptions. Hence the astronomical cost of Covid-19 vaccines.

To this silver bleeding we must add another three hundred million in “post-production” costs. Roughly, those three billion dollars are the cost of the successes, but only 12% of the “remedies” that initiate the procedures reach the end of the journey. The remaining 88% stays in different stages of the research. I get these scary data from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development published in the Journal of Health Economics.

That explains why Yale University and the “AI Therapeutics” laboratory preferred to review thirteen thousand previously approved medicines, until they came across a substance called LAM-002A, a not-at-all commercial name, that apparently prevents the progression of coronavirus.

It also explains that Yaakov Nahmias, from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Dr. Benjamin tenOever, from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, two young and brilliant researchers, trained in Israel and in the United States, chose an old and accredited medicine against cholesterol and triglycerides, called Fenofibrate, also known as TriCor.

According to their research, it seems that in five days it “cleans” the lungs and transforms the coronavirus into a classic flu. (My brother Alex Montaner, a doctor, severely infected by Covid-19, is using it. So far he is doing well. We’ll see how it turns out.)

This has nothing to do with the benefits of hydroxychloroquine, strongly recommended by Donald Trump against the coronavirus. We are all tired of the pandemic, but the medicine, which alleviates rheumatoid arthritis and malaria, could even be counterproductive if used against Covid-19. At least that is what most of the scientific community says.

Not all, of course. Donald Trump is favored by Doctor Stella Immanuel, who recommends hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Immanuel is a woman born in Cameroon who studied medicine in Nigeria and works in Houston. She claims that she has cured hundreds of patients with hydroxychloroquine.
As a religious minister –she belongs to a Christian sect– she also alleges that demons inhabit people’s dreams to seduce them and lead them down the wrong path of eroticism. Incubi are male demons that dominate females. Succubi are female demons that mate with males while they dream.

The history of the Incubi and the Succubi reminded me of the extraordinary anecdote that Fernando Iwasaki, a great writer, tells in Peruvian Inquisitions. It is titled “Forbidden to Dream”
and it tells the story of Inés Ivitarte, a cloistered nun during colonial times. The devil visited her in her dreams and possessed her with his enormous member covered in black scales.

The nun told her confessor, a Jesuit theologian well versed in the tricks of the devil, and he (the Jesuit, not the devil) concluded that someone had died without confession in Lima, recently conquered by the Spanish. That was the incubus guilty of poor Inés’ unease.

The confessor, who was a determined man, came up with a way to defeat the Evil One. He prohibited dreaming in Lima. Since he was a man of action, he organized his fellow inquisitors so that, at dawn, they went through all the inhabited houses and asked if anyone in the family had had an erotic dream. Oddly, no one had ever had such a sinful dream. It seems that the demon was silently extinguished by the pious response of Lima’s residents. ©FIRMAS PRESS

Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is Sin ir más lejos (Memories), published by Debate, a label of Penguin-Random House.


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