In this episode, I speak with Michael Laufer — Chief Spokesperson for the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, a network of individuals that seek to make commonly inaccessible medicines affordable and accessible to public by providing the means to produce pharmaceutical medicines outside of the dominant medical establishment. We tackle the ethics behind the project, the anti-capitalist/anarchist structure of the network, and the various technologies the Collective has been able to make affordable and accessible to the broader public, in order to adequately participate in pharmaceutical drug production in a more direct DIY fashion.
In this discussion with Michael, we get at the various ways the for-profit healthcare system in the United States makes commonly needed medicines practically impossible to access for a wide swath of the population. "The main reasons for people being disenfranchised from medicines are: price, legality, and lack of infrastructure. Medicines like Solvadi which costs $80,000 for a course of treatment, is beyond the reach of most people. Mifepristone and Misoprostal are unavailable in many places where abortion is illegal. Antiretroviral HIV treatments even when provided free, have no way of getting to remote locations in 3rd world countries.”* How can a non-hierarchal network like the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, comprised of individuals from various backgrounds and specializations, provide the means for the disenfranchised to not only have access to, but also produce, pharmaceutical grade medications in order to maintain the health, and save the lives, of those effectively shut out of the for-profit healthcare system in the United States? I ask Michael to define the ethical obligation those in the Collective feel in providing the means to construct the tools to produce these much-needed medicines, the legality of this project, the anti-establishment ethos that directs the project, and what we can expect from the Collective in the future.
Dr. Michael Laufer a professor of Mathematics at Menlo College, and is Chief Spokesperson and founding member of Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, a volunteer network of anarchists and hackers developing DIY medical technologies outside of the dominant for-profit medical establishment. The Collective is responsible for designing the Apothecary Microlab, a DIY chemical reactor (made with a 3D printer) that can produce pharmaceutical grade drugs for a fraction of the cost, as well as the epinephrine injector dubbed the “EpiPencil” that can be constructed and used for a little over $30 (compared to the EpiPen, which is now around $300 per unit).
- Learn more about the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective, their mission, and how to get involved: https://fourthievesvinegar.org
- Follow the Collective on Twitter: https://twitter.com/4ThievesVinegar
- Follow Michael on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MichaelSLaufer
- For those interested in DIY insulin production, Michael mentions the Open Insulin Project: http://openinsulin.org
- Read more about Michael and the Collective in this article on Motherboard: http://bit.ly/2GAynKH
- The songs featured in this episode are “Virus” (the full version and the instrumental) and “Memory Loss” by Deltron 3030 from the self-titled album Deltron 3030.