Flash Mob Infects Pharma Conference with Spirit Of Change

Hey, hey, ho, ho, pharma pollution has got to go!

Draped with artificial bacteria that have been known to show resistance—purple balls of MRSA, yellow fuzzy tassels of E. coli—a flash mob of dancers helped kick off a day of action to stop pharmaceutical manufacturing pollution. The activists started at Philadelphia City Hall, then marched to the Conference Center where CPhI North America, one of the largest pharmaceutical conferences in the world, was taking place.

Photo: Cameron Harris

Activists and pharmaceutical executives met on the sidewalk. Signatories of the Industry Roadmap, which promises action by 2020 on this issue, handed activists their card; various conference attendees stopped to watch the dance. It was an opportunity to engage directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers on manufacturing pollution, which they have in their power to eliminate.

Photo: Kristen Tomokowid/Little But Fierce
Photo: Cameron Harris

After the dance, we asked Philadelphians to show their support by tweeting at the conference and jamming their social media feed with calls to stop #pharmapollution. We were delighted by the volume of love our cause received, not just on Twitter but on Facebook and Instagram. Side note: there’s still time to sign our petition.

Read more about the action in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Within the last ten years, pharmaceutical manufacturing pollution has been recognized as a contributor to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs.” Bacteria overexposed to the antibiotics in factory effluent can develop resistance to those antibiotics and then proliferate.

Though most of these polluting factories are in India and China, where the bulk of antibiotics taken in the U.S. are produced, resistance grown abroad can easily pass over our borders. In the past year, a patient in Pennsylvania was diagnosed with the first Colistin-resistant infection in the U.S. (a strain commonly found in China). A patient in Nevada died after an India-acquired infection failed to respond to 26 different antibiotics.

The Philadelphia action is part of a broader campaign to stop pharmaceutical pollution that drives the development and spread of superbugs. The goal is to encourage major US retailers like CVS Health to eliminate serial polluters from their supply chains. Aurobindo, an Indian manufacturer, has been identified as one of the worst actors on antibiotic manufacturing pollution. The manufacturer has relationships with CVS Health, Walmart, and McKesson.

Photo: Cameron Harris

We’d like to thank all the dancers and activists that supported us on Wednesday, whether in person or online. If our grassroots action didn’t catch pharma’s attention, this definitely will: right now, Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York is circulating a sign-on memo calling attention to this issue. Together, we can help close the back door to resistance and stop superbugs NOW.

Featured photo Kristen Tomkowid/Little But Fierce