Dr. Farmer's Remedy For World Health

Byron Pitts Meets A Man Who Dedicates His Life To Bringing Healthcare To The Poor

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They saved the life of a man stricken with tuberculosis and thousands like him. Farmer and Kim figured out not just a new way to treat multi drug-resistant TB, but a cheaper way to provide the medicine. Their breakthrough has become the new standard and has saved the lives of people around the world.

"You were able to lower drug prices. How is that possible?" Pitts asks.

"I realized very quickly that these are all old generic drugs. There's no reason for them to be so expensive. So we did some very simple things. We talked to drug procurement specialists who had contacts in India who said, 'We can make these drugs for 100th of the price,'" Kim explains.

But drugs only work if people take them, so Partners In Health came up with the idea of hiring community health workers. The workers, fellow villagers, visit the sick at home every day, making sure they take their medicine. The result, says Farmer, is that their patients with AIDS and TB stay healthier longer than many patients in the U.S.

"Yes, there are people here in central Haiti who get better care for certain diseases than they would in parts of the United States," Farmer says.

"Come on," Pitts says.

"No, I'm absolutely serious. I've seen it," Farmer replies.

It's a program so successful, Partners In Health has exported the model of using community health workers to American communities like Roxbury, Mass.

Farmer's success has made him a celebrity in the world of global healthcare; he won a MacArthur genius award.

It's heady stuff for a man from humble means. His mother was a grocery store cashier, his father a school teacher who chose an unconventional lifestyle for his family.

Farmer grew up on a bus. "It was actually a bus that had been used to take x-rays in a tuberculosis screening program. You see, this is why I don't like talking about my biography, because that sounds so neat, right? I lived in a bus," Farmer tells Pitts.

"Neat?" Pitts asks. "It sounds pretty hardcore to me. Grew up on a bus."

"Well no, but I mean it was a tuberculosis bus and then later I became a tuberculosis expert," Farmer explains.