An Arm and a Leg: John Green vs. Johnson & Johnson (Part 1)

by | Oct 11, 2023 | Health

Why is treating drug-resistant tuberculosis so expensive?

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson’s patents on a drug called bedaquiline have a lot to do with it.

In this episode of “An Arm and a Leg,” host Dan Weissmann speaks with writer and YouTube star John Green about how he mobilized his massive online community of “nerdfighters” to change the company’s policy and help make the drug more accessible.

But not every lifesaving drug has a champion with a platform as big as Green’s. Drug companies’ patents limit access to affordable treatments as well.

Weissmann also speaks with drug-patent expert Tahir Amin about how companies keep their drugs under patent for so long and the legal challenges that have been made to these policies around the world.

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Transcript: John Green vs. Johnson & Johnson (Part 1)

Note: “An Arm and a Leg” uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Dan: Hey there — A little while ago, I got to talk with this widely-beloved dude. 

John Green: My name is John Green, and I’m a writer and YouTuber.

Dan: John Green, writer, may be the most likely to ring a bell. His best-known book, “The Fault in Our Stars,” sold millions of copies and became a movie.

But before he was such a big deal as a writer, he and his brother Hank were a big deal on YouTube. And they still are. We’ll get into the details a little bit later.

But for now the thing to know is: Pretty recently, John Green got on the main YouTube channel he and his brother share, and started talking to hundreds of thousands of people about how the drug-maker Johnson & Johnson was using legalistic drug patent games to deny access to life saving tuberculosis medicine to millions of peopl …

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