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Why the Bill Gates global health empire promises more empire and less public health

Behind a veil of corporate media PR, the Gates Foundation has served as a vehicle for Western capital while exploiting the Global South as a human laboratory. The coronavirus pandemic is likely to intensify this disturbing agenda.

by Jeremy Loffredo and Michele Greenstein

Part 8 - With drugs discarded by the West, an illusion of choice for African women

The Gates Foundation’s practice of pushing dangerous drugs onto health systems of the Global South is not limited to vaccines. It also helps distribute long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).

Melinda Gates often refers to LARCs as a way to empower women of impoverished countries and give them more control over their lives. However, some of these LARCs have had adverse effects, and the distribution of the products without informed consent offers women little self-determination.

One example is Norplant, a contraceptive implant manufactured by Schering (now Bayer) that can prevent pregnancy for up to five years. It was yanked from the U.S. market in 2002 after more than 50,000 women filed lawsuits against the company and the doctors who prescribed it. 70 of those class action suits related to side effects like depression, extreme nausea, scalp-hair loss, ovarian cysts, migraines, and excessive bleeding. 

A human development website called Degrees, which was bankrolled by the Gates Foundation, alleges that Norplant “never gained much traction globally” because inserting it and removing it “proved cumbersome.

Slightly modified and rebranded as Jadelle, the dangerous drug was promoted in Africa by the Gates Foundation in conjunction with USAID and EngenderHealth. Formerly named the Sterilization League for Human Betterment, EngenderHealth’s original mission, inspired by the racist pseudoscience of eugenics, was to “improve the biological stock of the human race.” Jadelle is not approved by the FDA for use in the U.S.

Then there is Pfizer’s Depo-Provera, an injectable contraceptive used in several African and Asian countries. The Gates Foundation and USAID have collaborated again to fund this drug’s distribution and introduce it into the healthcare systems of countries including Uganda, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Bangladesh, and India.

In 2012, Melinda Gates promised to supply contraceptives like Depo-Provera, which cost between $120 and $300 a year, to at least 120 million women by 2020. In 2017, Melinda Gates authored an article on Medium reporting that she and her partners were on track to keeping that promise, and pledging $375 million in additional funds to do so. That meant that Pfizer made between $14 and $36 billion through this program.

Disturbingly, Depo Provera’s active ingredient – depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) – has been associated with side effects like life threatening blood clots in the lungs, blindness, and breast cancer.

Pfizer’s one-time use version of the drug, called Sayana Press, is intended to be administered by “community health workers.” In Senegal, however, almost half of these workers had no more than a sixth grade education. 

Senegal’s Health Ministry was forced to change its laws so the health workers could legally distribute the drug. According to the Population Research Institute, USAID-funded NGOs “strong armed the government” into this decision.

Additionally, training materials for Sayana Press did not provide information on all the side effects of DMPA, violating principles of informed consent. According to WHO guidelines, DMPA shouldn’t be used by women with rheumatic disorders. But USAID funded patient screening checklists for Uganda did not instruct health workers to ask women about a history of such disorders.

Guidelines for trainers of providers of Sayana Press also don’t mention that the drug has been strongly associated with bone density loss and an increased risk of bone fractures. As the Population Research Institute put it, “The FDA requires that U.S. women be informed of this fact, but African women are kept in the dark.

In 2015, 70 Indian feminist groups and scholars signed a statement protesting the regulatory approval of Depo-Provera, citing side effects like excessive bone density loss, weight gain, excessive bleeding, and depression. Their statement argued that women’s organizations have consistently opposed the introduction of dangerous contraceptives like these, and that “there are risks that the women are not given enough information to make an informed choice of contraceptive method.

Despite widespread domestic opposition and the mounting evidence of negative side effects, the Gates Foundation continues working with USAID to distribute drugs like Depo-Provera.

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