Don't watch 'Dallas Buyers Club'
The film is a glamorization of science denialism, encourages conspiracy theories and creates problems for society.
"Dallas Buyers Club," released in 2013, won three Oscar statuettes. Matthew McConaughey won the award for best actor for his role as Ron Woodroof, the main character in the story. Jared Leto, playing Raymond, a trans woman, was awarded best supporting actor. In addition to these two awards, the cinematographic work won in the category of best makeup and hairstyling.
Set in 1985, the biographical film tells the story of Ron Woodroof, an electrician and cowboy from Texas, southern USA. The main event in the script is the AIDS epidemic spreading and taking its victims.
In the beginning, the film shows who Ron is and his personality: he has an unruly life of sex with prostitutes, drugs, gambling and drinking. With friends, while playing poker for money at a rodeo festival, he made disparaging remarks about the sexuality of Rock Hudson, a Hollywood actor killed by AIDS. "Cock sucker," he accused. A bad character, Ron is also dishonest and gets into fights for not paying his bets.
Soon after an accident at work, when an electrical power box exploded in his face, Ron went to a hospital for emergency care. When he was feeling better, the doctors had some bad news and asked him to be seated. His test was positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. When the doctor asked if Ron had had homosexual relations, to find out if he was part of the main risk group for the disease, the cowboy exploded with anger and screamed at the doctor.
Then, even after being offended, the doctor, acting as a counselor, advised that he had approximately one month to live. Ron, a redneck from the American Midwest, low qualified worker, homophobic and rude, the ideal profile to become a science denier, did the expected: he denied science. "There is nothing in the world that will kill Ron Woodroof in 30 days," he said. Leaving the hospital after the news that he was infected, Ron went back to his everyday life: he went snorting cocaine, drinking and having sex with prostitutes.
Ron soon told a friend about his test results. The cowboy claimed that the HIV diagnosis was a medical mistake. But reality always imposes itself on science deniers like Ron Woodroof: the symptoms of AIDS started to get worse.
Luckily, science, with its focus on bringing the best to the population, was already searching for an effective treatment for the epidemic. The Dallas hospital was one of the places participating in the "gold standard" studies, the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of AZT. "You will be very well compensated," promised the representative of the Burroughs Wellcome laboratory, producer of the drug, to the hospital's board of directors.
Feeling unwell from his worsening illness, Ron went again to the hospital where the studies were already being done. He was looking for a doctor. When a woman offered to help him, the cowboy showed another characteristic of his personality: male chauvinism. Ron said he didn't want to be seen by a nurse, but she was a doctor.
Ron wanted AZT, considered, at the time, a hope by the press. Dr. Eve Saks (Jennifer Garner), explained that he could volunteer for the study, but since it was a "gold standard," randomized, double-blind clinical trial, he could either receive the drug or the placebo. A denialist again, Ron did not want to wait the “time of science.” In addition, he showed himself to be corrupt. The cowboy offered money to the doctor to have AZT at that time.
After the doctor's denial, in anguish, Ron goes to the library to read all the news about AIDS and the possibilities of treatments. Informed, he returned to press the doctor with a list of unproven drugs he wanted (something that was sadly repeated during COVID, with patients pressuring doctors to have unproven drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin), but Dr Saks informed him that none of the drugs were approved by the FDA - Food and Drug Administration. "To hell with the FDA," Ron said, demonstrating more science denialism. The doctor, understanding the cowboy's desperation, tried to refer him to an AIDS support group. "Are you telling me to get hugs from a bunch of fags?"
However, Ron soon got what he wanted. He was able to corrupt a hospital employee to have his AZT doses deviated from the research. But even taking the drug, his illness worsened and he returned to the hospital. That is when Ron met Raymond, the AIDS-infected trans woman played by Leto. Raymond, also corrupt, shared her dose with a person who paid him.
After a momentary improvement, Ron left the hospital again. But the deviation of the AZT didn't last long. They discovered the corruption. So then the hospital employee gave Ron the address of a doctor in Mexico who could have the AZT. Desperate, the cowboy crosses the border in search of the drug. In Mexico, he finds an underground clinic owned by an American science denialist doctor who has had his medical license revoked for prescribing treatments unproven by the FDA. (Something that was unfortunately repeated during COVID-19, such as the case of Dr. Meryl Nass, an American doctor who had her license suspended for prescribing ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, unproven drugs).
At the underground clinic, the denialist doctor, played by Griffin Dunne, ordered Ron to stop taking AZT. "The only people AZT helps are the people who sell it," he stated. In the aftermath, he prescribed drugs without scientific evidence, including, in his cocktail, zinc and vitamins. (Something that was repeated during COVID-19, as in the case of Dr Zelenko, a North American doctor who claimed, since the beginning of the pandemic, to treat patients successfully. In his cocktail, Zelenko included zinc and vitamins, as well as hydroxychloroquine. In the New York Times, his proposal was called a "miracle cure").
After staying at the underground clinic for a while, Ron had an improvement. The doctor, an irresponsible person who did not follow the scientific recommendations of the FDA and gave false hope to desperate patients, cited "early studies" to put together his treatment cocktail. Ron was angry because he couldn't buy the drugs in the US. It was not approved by the regulatory agency against AIDS.
Ron becomes a conspiracy theorist
From his improvement, Ron became a conspiracy theorist. For him, the FDA, in collusion with the pharmaceutical industry, was acting against effective, cheap, off-patent drugs, letting patients die for profit. With this in mind, the cowboy saw an opportunity to help infected people in the USA, as well as a business opportunity. Ron, together with the doctor of the underground clinic, planned the illegal sale of unproven "AIDS Kits" (something that, unfortunately, has been repeated in the current pandemic, with the notorious "Covid Kits," with ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, zinc and vitamins, which the fact-checkers have already assured us are ineffective).
Then, in an ingenious way, Ron begins to bring the "AIDS Kits" from Mexico to the US. Not long after, in defense of science, FDA officials begin pursuing Ron to stop the illegal commerce. To help him with sales in the gay community, the homophobic cowboy partners with Raymond, the trans woman. And instead of making sales, so as not to fall under illegal drug trading, he and Raymond set up a club that sells membership fees, where members are allowed the drugs. It is "Dallas Buyers Club," the name of the movie.
At the same time, AZT, even though it did not show satisfactory results, was approved by the FDA in record time. It was the first drug to treat AIDS. Costing $8,000 a year ($17,000 today), AZT was the most expensive drug ever put on the market. Meanwhile, the monthly fee at the Dallas Shopping Club was $400. (Odd approvals, with little evidence of efficacy, were repeated now, during COVID-19, with the expensive and patented Remdesivir. In the journal Science, an investigative report is headlined, "The ‘very, very bad look' of remdesivir, the first FDA-approved COVID-19 drug.")
At the club, to clients who came in and reported that they were taking AZT, Ron, radicalizing his science denialism, told them to "throw it in the toilet". And the misinformation spread by Ron and Raymond created problems for science advocates. Patients at the hospital, which strictly followed the scientific guidelines of the FDA, started going to the club for drugs without scientific evidence. Queues formed: "Where are my trial patients?", one of the doctors at the hospital asked.
And Ron started to include more drugs in his "AIDS kit". He had smuggled in several possibilities that having any news that they might work. In one of the tests with new drugs, which he did on himself, the cowboy became ill and was hospitalized. In the hospital, they gave him AZT. Upon waking up, Ron pulled it out of his arm, "I'm going to sue you for attempted murder," he told the hospital doctor. An FDA agent threatened to arrest him. "You're fooling yourself," the doctor said about the "AIDS kit". "I fooled you, didn't I? You said I was going to die in 30 days and it's been a year," Ron replied to the doctor.
On the television that the film's characters watch, the news is about protests against the FDA demanding faster research into AIDS drugs. But according to Ron's conspiracy theory, the FDA was only interested in promoting expensive AZT, not effective treatments against the disease. At that time, activists even begged the agencies to recommend drugs that were considered effective by front-line doctors. Another activist, in an open letter published in a newspaper, begged for studies with generic drugs and even compared Dr Anthony Fauci, the AIDS Czar at the time, and now of COVID-19, to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi concentration camp chief.
In the film's sequel, the pursuit of the cowboy escalated. The buying club was raided by the police along with FDA agents. They wanted to confiscate drugs. (Something that repeated itself during Covid-19, with the Brazilian police raiding the homes of Dr Cadegiani and Dr Ricardo Zimerman, and the French police raiding the hospital where Dr Didier Raoult is director. All authors of studies against Covid with generic drugs, cheap and without patents).
Ron was trying to run the Buyers Club, but the FDA changed the rules. And from a certain point on, he needed a prescription from a doctor to buy some of the drugs. However, no doctor wanted to give him a prescription to continue buying and distributing his AIDS Kits. (Something that was repeated during COVID-19, with a change in the status of drugs that were known to be safe, but during the pandemic required a prescription. Before, they were sold without prescription).
During the entire film, the cowboy maintains contact with the doctor who lost his license for being a science denier and kept the underground clinic in Mexico. The contact was to perfect the AIDS kit. In one of the conversations with the doctor, Ron learned of a French study that pointed to AZT as excessively toxic, but the study was ignored by the FDA and the manufacturer, who only wanted to promote the drug, the doctor said.
Coincidentally, without an AIDS kit, Raymond's condition worsened and she was taken to the hospital. There they gave AZT to the trans woman, who did not resist and died. At this time, Ron went to the hospital and physically assaulted the doctor who produced the studies with the drug. In addition to the assault, he called the doctor a "murderer". While being removed by security guards, the cowboy, with his conspiracy theory in his mind, shouted to all the patients in the hospital: "Don't let them inject this shit into you".
Subsequently, Ron started making conspiracy pamphlets badmouthing AZT, and explaining what the alternative was. All were considered dangerous disinformation by the authorities who defended science. With the pamphlets, he broke into a lecture by scientists from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for HIV-infected people. "Labs pay the FDA to promote their products," he told the audience. Ron made one more accusation: he claimed that authorities did not want to see the results he was promoting with his "AIDS kit." (Something that was repeated today, with front-line doctors accusing the FDA of not caring about their results against COVID-19).
At this meeting, the cowboy extolled his reduced death rate in 6 months of treatment. He said that in this time frame, only 10% of his patients died, in a disease that killed everyone within a few months. At the same time, the woman doctor at the Dallas hospital became influenced by what Ron was saying. She, by her own decision, reduced the doses of AZT in her hospital patients, contrary to FDA guidelines. For this she was persecuted and then fired. (Something that was repeated today at Covid-19, with Dr Paul Marik being persecuted and fired for refusing to prescribe Remdesivir to his patients. Dr Marik claimed that hospitals earn a 20% bonus when prescribing the drug).
The film ends by explaining that Ronald Woodroof died in September 1992, seven years after being diagnosed with HIV. After much wrangling, AZT began to be used at a lower dose, and in combination with other drugs, including those contained in his "AIDS Kit".
In the end, it was not a conspiracy theory
Despite being homophobic, sexist, dishonest, corrupt, far-right, drunk, a cocaine user, a low-level worker and running an illegal business, Ron Woordroof was not a conspiracy theorist. What he was saying was true. The movie is a true story.
At the time, patients understood that Ron's drug cocktail was effective. That's why lines formed at the door of the club. The people watching the movie also understood that the cocktail was effective. The effectiveness is unequivocal, after all, Ron did not die in 30 days, he lived much longer, and everyone who took the medicines survived.
In that era, the FDA and other government agencies actually acted to favor the pharmaceutical industry. As a result, everyone who offered effective treatments with cheap, generic and off-patent drugs was persecuted. In this way, thousands were murdered for profit. Just by sabotage of the cheap Bactrim, for example, an estimated 17,000 American AIDS patients were killed.
During AIDS, many more stories occurred. An investigative report in the New York Times tells how the pharmaceutical giant Bayer, owner of the Cutter lab, sold HIV-infected blood plasma. The company knew about the contamination. US government officials also knew about the contamination. They all decided to cover up the crime and the drug continued to be sold. What is wrong with a lot of people dying when there is money in it? Isn't that right?
No one has ever been punished for everything that occurred during AIDS. And so, no reforms in medical science were ever made. Nobody cared because the vast majority of those killed by the disease were homosexuals. And nobody cares when homosexuals die.
The next epidemic: H1N1
It is all documented. The distortion of science for profit that occurred with AIDS was repeated in the H1NI pandemic in 2009. "Sometimes you get the feeling that there is a whole industry almost waiting for a pandemic to occur," predicted epidemiologist Tom Jefferson, a Cochrane expert, in an interview for Der Spiegel, Germany's leading magazine.
"The WHO and public health officials, virologists and the pharmaceutical companies. They've built this machine around the impending pandemic. And there's a lot of money involved, and influence, and careers, and entire institutions! And all it took was one of these influenza viruses to mutate to start the machine grinding," he added.
According to a report in England's The Guardian, this is exactly what happened: "Scientists who drew up the key World Health Organisation guidelines advising governments to stockpile drugs in the event of a flu pandemic had previously been paid by drug companies which stood to profit."
"The tentacles of drug company influence are in all levels of the decision-making process," said Paul Flynn, the Labour MP who sits on the council's health committee., said at the time. "Many nations would adopt this guidance, including Britain. In 2005, the government said it had begun bulk-buying the drug Tamiflu," the Guardian reports.
"The previous year Hayden (one of the scientists named in the report) was also one of the main authors of a Roche-sponsored study that asserted what was to become a main Tamiflu selling point," the report explains.
According to the BMJ, one of the world's most respected medical journals, when it came to selling vaccines for H1N1, the industry did not care about safety, but only about profits: "There were early internal safety reports showing a higher rate of serious adverse events logged in relation to one of the vaccines, Pandemrix, but these reports were not actively shared with the public, and the vaccine continued to be promoted well into 2010."
The actual data only came after a lawsuit: "it took the legal case for GSK’s internal safety reports to come to light and a diligent reviewer, Tom Jefferson, to study and compare the rates of adverse events. When he did so, he 'just fell off the chair,'" the BMJ reports.
In 2015, a report showed the pharmaceutical industry's excessive influence on the European Commission in Brussels, Le Monde reported. "The WHO's response caused widespread, unnecessary fear and prompted countries around the world to waste millions of dollars," the Washington Post reported.
From AIDS to the present day. What has changed?
From the 1980s on, the power of industry has increased exponentially to the point where the BMJ asks whether regulatory agencies, which make recommendations for therapies (and which the public perceives as the final decision on what is or is not effective), have been hired by the pharmaceutical industry. Using the term "institutional corruption," the article cites how much of these regulatory agencies are currently funded by industry: Australia (TGA) 96%, Europe (EMA) 89%, United Kingdom (MHRA) 86%, Japan (PMDA) 85%, USA (FDA): 65%.
Since then, the pharmaceutical industry lobby has become the biggest in the world, three times bigger than the oil industry. According to a BMJ article, evidence-based medicine has become an "illusion" because the industry corrupts everything: research, academia, governments and the scientific journals. "Critics of industry face rejections from journals, legal threats, and the potential destruction of their careers," the authors explain about those who dare to disagree. And indeed, this has become common practice. According to CBS News, Merck created a target list to "destroy," "neutralize," or "discredit" doctors who criticized Vioxx, an approved and rubber-stamped drug that has killed tens of thousands.
In 2005, Richard Smith, BMJ editor for 25 years, explained that "Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of Pharmaceutical Companies". The article gives a recipe for how the industry buries drugs that get in the way of commercial interests, such as doing studies with doses that are too high or too low, in order to manipulate the outcome. The article cites a recent quote from Richard Horton, Lancet editor: "Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry."
From then on, according to the Washington Post, Pfizer hid efficacy of Alzheimer's drugs when it lost its patent. After all, it was not profitable. The same Pfizer, which doubled its profit by 2021 and expects to reach revenues of up to $100 billion this year, paid the highest corporate fine in history: $2.3 billion in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The sin? Fraudulent marketing.
And it's not just Pfizer. A recent JAMA study found that pharmaceutical companies paid $33 billion in fines for illegal activities between 2003 and 2016. In the last 20 years, the pharmaceutical complex, with the opioid crisis, has killed only 500,000 people for profit. "They claim more lives than traffic accidents and even more than gunshot wounds," said American journalist Patrick Radden Keefe in a BBC interview. The report states that even today this addictive epidemic continues to kill about 136 people a day, according to the CDC.
On top of all this, the FDA, according to Scientific American, has learned to control the press. "The watchdogs are being turned into lapdogs," stated the article. What about advertising spending, bringing the media over to their side? According to JAMA, they doubled in the US between 1997 and 2016, reaching a staggering $30 billion per year. For all these reasons, the ethics department at Harvard University recommends not trusting the FDA, because its approvals and indications are basically patent exchanges, focused on helping the pharmaceutical industries in their business.
"90 percent of all new drugs approved by the FDA over the past 30 years are little or no more effective for patients than existing drugs," the article states. The authors explain that the safety of approved drugs is a myth: "Every week, about 53,000 excess hospitalizations and about 2400 excess deaths occur in the United States among people taking properly prescribed drugs to be healthier."
Campaign to stop "Dallas Buyers Club" from being watched
In every pandemic, has the pharmaceutical industry only thought about profit, not about saving patients? Yes. Exactly that. It has not failed once. Anything different today would be unprecedented. Moreover, in the intervals between pandemics, they hid drug efficacy, sold other deadly ones just for profit, and persecuted whistleblowers.
Did it get even easier for big pharma during COVID-19 than it did at the time of the movie to fight cheap, generic, off-patent drugs in order to sell their expensive, patented solutions, letting patients die for profit? Yes. The dominance got a lot bigger, with a lot more money.
Since the beginning of COVID-19, using drugs such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, zinc, vitamins, among others, the Brazilian physician Dr. Flavio Cadegiani has treated 3,711 patients with no deaths. In the USA, with basically the same cocktail, Dr George Fareed and Dr Brian Tyson treated in the first days of symptoms, 3,962 patients with the same great result, with no one dying. Of the 413 patients who arrived after the initial phase of the disease, with more than five days of symptoms, the North American duo had only three deaths. In France, Dr. Didier Raoult, also with the same drugs, treated 8,315 patients with only five deaths. Several other doctors have had similar results.
To me, who has a simple mindset, the effectiveness of these doctors' cocktails is unequivocal; after all, almost no one has died. In my bakery bill, that's 16,401 patients and 8 deaths. That gives, according to my mathematics, a fatality rate of 0.05%. In the USA today, there are already 101.5 million infected. Of these, 1,111,559 have died. In my count, if everyone had been treated by these cocktails, there would only be 55,578 dead. Therefore, in the USA alone, over one million people would have been saved.
But The Guardian, one of the most important newspapers in Europe, says that the issue ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine versus COVID-19 is a "conspiracy theory". In Brazil, the USP - University of São Paulo, the main one in Latin America, also stated that it is a conspiracy theory, after all, the FDA does not recommend these drugs.
At the same time, everyone knows the phrase of Karl Marx, who once said, "History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce."
It so happens that any ordinary person who has watched the movie, knows Marx's phrase, has followed what the industry has done during AIDS until today, has followed COVID-19, and learned about the results of the doctors who treated people, at one time or another, ends up concluding: "It's just history repeating itself, again". And saying this, today, apparently, is considered a "conspiracy theory".
But I am not an expert to know if it worked just because almost nobody died from those doctors' cocktails. I think simply, like an Electrician Cowboy. Or maybe the "conspiracy theory" is Marx's phrase, and history, in fact, never repeats itself! Probably that. History repeating itself? An absolute absurdity! Impossible. What a nonsense to say that!
Therefore, it is better that no one watches the movie, generating critical thinking. Also, I would have no reason to doubt fact-checkers sponsored by vaccine manufacturers saying that these drugs don't work, would I?
Karl Marx's phrase cannot be cancelled. It is already in everyone's mind. It is popular knowledge. Luckily, the movie, throughout the pandemic, was not available on Netflix, the world's leading streaming service. But not being available on Netflix is not enough for anyone to watch and conclude a conspiracy theory that history repeats itself.
So, since history never repeats itself, I am now launching a worldwide campaign for the cancellation of the three Academy Awards for the Film.
Unfortunately, only Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, and the person responsible for the makeup will be punished. The film's director, Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée, will not be able to be penalized with the necessary severity either. Shortly after the release of the COVID-19 vaccines, Vallée, a marathon enthusiast, had a sudden death.
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