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Why is a treatable disease so deadly?

1 min
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For Tiny Matters, Sam and I talked to John Green about (what else) tuberculosis, as well as to Uzma Khan, a physician and researcher who has been working on a clinical trial looking for shorter and safer regiments to treat the disease. And one of the most frustrating aspects of tuberculosis that came across through these conversations is just how much the deadliness of tuberculosis is connected to the costs of diagnosis and treatment--costs that don't need to be as high as they are. This has been a major part of John's advocacy, which has helped draw more attention to issues like the way Johnson and Johnson's pursuit of a secondary patent on the drug bedaquiline would have prevented the manufacturing of cheaper generic versions.

As John himself notes, his advocacy is relatively late to the game: there were a number of activists who were challenging the logic behind this secondary patent. Diseases are a social experience as much as they're an individual, medical one. They function as a result of conditions that extend far beyond just the scientific nature of the infection itself. And to me, the hope of this episode is that while social factors have made tuberculosis far more deadly than it needs to be, there are also social factors that can come into play to make it far less deadly than it has been.


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