2017 Winners

Buyers Club

In 2015, an Australian man in his 60's, travelled to India in a desperate bid to save his life. Greg Jeffery's had Hepatitis C, and even though a cure had only recently been launched, he couldn't get his hands on it back home in Tasmania. At $84,000 for the complete treatment, his choices were limited to either selling his only asset, his house, to buy the drug or contemplating an early death.

Then, he heard that a cheaper version of the same drug, identical in its chemical composition and effects, was available in India. But, access to it was so tightly regulated that he couldn't just have it shipped to him in Australia.

He knew what he had to do.

Without any preparation, Greg bought a ticket on his credit card and flew to India to begin a week-long search for a medicine that would eventually save his life. In doing so, he became the first western man to travel to India looking for generic Sovaldi - a drug so miraculous, it's been compared to Penicillin. It's also so exorbitantly priced, that MSF once famously described it as "gram for gram more expensive than diamonds."

His weeklong stay in India had all the makings of an absurd thriller. With the clock ticking loudly until he ran out of money, he finally managed to get the medicines in a cash-only transaction in an alley near his hotel just hours before his flight back home.

He might as well have been buying narcotics, given the cloak and dagger means he had to employ to access this drug.

Having successfully smuggled the drugs back home, Greg began his treatment and was surprised by how quickly he recovered. Meanwhile, word of his adventure had gotten out, and hundreds, then thousands of Hepatitis C patients from across the Western world began writing to him.

As the volume of the enquiries grew, Greg realized he had to do something to help all these patients. He began contracting Indian suppliers to ship generic Hepatitis C drugs to patients across the world, flooding western markets with cheap medicines, curing hundreds and thousands of people without pushing them into poverty.

And so, one of the most intricate Buyers Club of our generation was born, decades after activists had employed similar measures in the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Built on trust, and in solidarity with hundreds and thousands of ordinary citizens, the Buyers Club in many ways reflects humanity at its best. At its core, the club is nothing more than ordinary people helping each other to save lives.

Our film tells the story of this Buyers Club, how a group of people came together to defy one of the largest companies in the world, utilizing every loophole in the book, to stay one step ahead of their formidable adversary. In documenting their incredible journey, the film will also address how drugs like Sovaldi are priced, marketed and sold and why that system is broken.

photo
  • Director
  • Mandakini GahlotIndia

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