DailyOh! Anti-HIV drugs to treat Covid-19 but why 2 lakh capsules were once discarded, to what you may not know about Ek Do Teen

People needed medicine but nobody was ready to pay for them.

 |  6-minute read |   18-03-2020
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Hey there,

We assume you spent the day working from home. And if you had to step out for work, we hope you took all necessary precautions. Confirmed cases in India have risen to 148 with three people having died due to the virus. But across the world, nearly 8,000 people have lost their lives to the virus. In Italy alone, the death toll has crossed 2,500. You see, the pandemic can’t be taken lightly.

We have told you that the recovery rate for those infected with the virus is rather high. And scientists across the world are busy trying to find what medication works best for those infected. The Indian government yesterday allowed the use of anti-HIV drugs for high-risk patients after two Covid-19 patients, both Italian, recovered after being given the anti-HIV drugs.

corona_690_031820045739.jpgThe Indian government yesterday allowed the use of anti-HIV drugs for high-risk patients. (Photo: Reuters)

So, will all people get the drugs? No. The government has recommended use of anti-HIV drugs on a case-to-case basis for patients aged above 60 with underlying conditions.

You will be surprised to know that there was point in time when Yusuf Hamied, the owner of Cipla, had to discard 2,00,000 anti-HIV capsules because he had no takers for them. Now, this was a time in the mid-1980s when about 5,000 Africans were dying of AIDS every day. Yes, you read that right – 5,000 per day. It was feared if the virus continued to spread at that pace, it would kill 90 million Africans by 2025.

The drug that could save them was AZT, azidothymidine. It had been found but the only company that made the drug was Burroughs Wellcome in America. The company sold the drug at US$ 8,000 (Rs 5,94,160) per patient a year. Quite obviously, not everyone could buy it. When Hamied was told about the problem, he agreed to manufacture it. He launched the drug in 1993. At what price? Rs 148.54 per day.

So why did he have to discard it? Because the Indian government said it had no money to buy them from Hamied. This was a time when Mumbai had come to be called the “AIDS capital of India” and yet the government said it only had money for detection and prevention – not treatment. Now, AIDS patients wouldn’t come out in the open because of the stigma so Hamied had no one to sell the drugs to. He discarded it all.

Much later, with the help of Doctors Without Borders, Hameid managed to sell the drugs at US$ 350 a year (Rs 25,994), or roughly Rs 75 per day. That proved to be revolution for AIDS patients. Unfortunately, the revolution was delayed, but it came nevertheless.

Healthcare is costly and in moments like the world is currently facing, it is important that the world unites to help out those who can’t afford treatment. For now, Covid-19 tests are being performed free of cost. The government has requested the private sector to also carry out tests for free. We hope they would for those who can’t afford these tests.

But medicine is not the only area where the world has to come together. You might have read or seen on the news that many cruise ships are not being allowed to dock because nations are scared those onboard maybe carrying the virus. One such British ship MS Braemar, which was sailing with five Covid-19 patients onboard, was allowed to dock by Cuba.

ms-690_031820050429.jpgMS Braemar, which was sailing with Covid-19 infected patients onboard, was allowed to dock by Cuba. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Since the ship is British, those onboard will be flown to the UK from Cuba. And Cuba isn’t the only nation that showed such large-heartedness. In mid-February, Cambodia allowed the cruise ship Westerdam to dock after five countries refused permission. Now, we know all nations want to protect their people first, but perhaps the world needs to come up with a plan to see how cruise ships can be helped during such outbreaks. You sure can’t leave ships stranded mid-ocean condemning them to sail forever.

Hey, that reminds us of the Flying Dutchman. Why? Because it couldn’t fly but was condemned to sail forever. According to the legend, the Flying Dutchman is a ghost ship that can never made it to a port. In ocean-lore, the sight of this phantom ship portents doom. That is just a myth. We know you know we shouldn’t believe in myths, especially in times of a disease outbreak.

Have a scientific temperament and only listen to experts.

But since we were talking of a cruise, our mind wandered to thinking what cruise means and this is what we found on our Word Of The Day - cruise. The first use of the term dates back to the 1650s, when the Dutch started using the word ‘kruisen’, which to meant ‘to cross, sail to and fro’. Kruisen, in turn, was derived from the Dutch word kruis, which referred to a cross pattern or a physical cross. And this meant a cruise wasn’t really a cruise unless you made a proper crossing.

So, your cruise wasn’t a cruise because you didn’t make the crossing? Oh, it was. The Oxford dictionary defines a cruise as a journey by sea, visiting different places, especially for pleasure. Language survives when language transforms. Cruise today means what cruise today is.

But today and in the days to come there will be no cruise because we are all supposed to avoid travel. Even for work, if possible. That is why WFH (work from home) is suddenly gaining traction. We are working from home too.

There are some jobs that can’t be done from home, but for those that can be, the option is strictly advised. Many are scared that work from home could be problematic because no matter how many times we say people are the problem, we can’t live without people. Human interaction is a must.

And there is no reason to fret because once the virus is beaten, it will all be back to how it was.

If you need lessons in how to deal with the blues for now, a Greek woman may have the answer. Katerina Korosidou was at work and this is how she was making it fun:

And guess who appreciated the moves? None less than Madhuri Dixit Nene, the Ek Do Teen Girl herself.

Before we proceed, we want you to just watch the original dance number all over again.

There is a very interesting story around how the song Ek, Do, Teen was written for the movie Tezaab (1988). The lyrics were written by Javed Akhtar and the song was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal. So, when Laxmikant and Pyarelal went to Akhtar to make him listen to the tune, they used 1, 2, 3 to convey the tune. Akhtar was so impressed that he made the numbers part of the lyrics.

Amazing how art is created.

So many years down the line, the song still lightens up the world around us. And the world is so desperately in need of this lightening up right now.

We hope this phase passes quickly.

Stay safe.

We will be back tomorrow.

Also read: DailyOh! Why the man who taught us hand washing died in a mental asylum to how Britain is doing it all wrong


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