Dear Editor

December 24, 2001

To the editors of the Toronto Star;

Re: Congo's missing cure leaves a legacy of pain

Three hundred thousand people, mostly impoverished Africans, are afflicted with sleeping sickness. A painless and effective cure is available, but its manufacture is discontinued because the pharmaceutical company, Aventis, cannot make a profit on the drug. The sufferers must fall back on an older remedy, itself scarce. The injections are excruciatingly painful, and kill one out of every ten patients.

This little Christmastime parable provides a horrifying object lesson for those who believe that unfettered free markets alone will solve all our problems. To blame the corporation is as pointless as blaming the mosquitos. They are each only doing what they do, parasites in their own way.

But we can look at the other side of this coin as well. Here are 300,000 ready and willing, nay desperate, customers, lost to the company because they have no money to pay for their goods. We see the enormous economic inefficiency caused by income disparity.

When will business leaders learn that poverty is not good for business?

Wayne Smith