I saw the movie Dallas Buyer’s Club on DVD. Several thoughts:
It’s a very well-done movie, and I recommend it with the caveat that people, gay or straight, who tend to contract HIV also tend to lead dirty lives. In this, the movie is more honest than much of not only contemporary discourse but also dramatic portrayals going back to Philadelphia. Be forewarned.
I align with other reviewers who recognize in DBC a tale of a benevolent entrepreneur taking on a predatory big government bureaucracy, in this case the FDA backed up by the IRS and DEA. But . . . how much if this is actually true?
The Wikipedia page on DBC concentrates on the character and sexuality of Ron Woodroof, whose own article is woefully short. Similarly, the page on AZT has nothing on the drug’s history during the 1980s.
The reason I ask about this is that, in my recollection of the time, backed up at least by this brief paragraph on its cost, AZT was very much in demand from patients and “AIDS Activists” in the late 1980s, with popular pushes to secure insurance company funding of the expensive treatment and expedite FDA approval in the face of doubts about its actual efficacy. (This was the subject of at least one episode on the 80s legal drama L.A. Law.)
But in DBC’s telling, the FDA is cramming AZT down people’s throats at the behest of Big Pharma, while Ron is learning from de-licensed doctors in Mexico that AZT is toxic and that better drugs are available everywhere except the U.S. My reading from the links above hint that this is mostly exaggeration: AZT is still part of the cocktail used to arrest HIV today, although it is true that in the high doses originally prescribed, and in the absence of other drugs to control its adverse side effects, its usefulness was limited. Meanwhile, DDC, the “good drug” in the movie, isn’t even used anymore.
In the end, after being diagnosed with AIDS in 1985, Ron Woodroof died in 1992 – seven years later. For all his self-medicating, this strikes my recollection as about par for the time. In consideration of all this, it’s hard to see in Ron’s real-life story the libertarian parable that DBC makes it out to be.