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This is a scheme often used when villains don't fall into Cut Lex Luthor a Check. The plan involves unleashing some kind of poison and then either selling the antidote (typically at an exorbitant price) or blackmailing a person into working for them in order to get the antidote.

Not to be confused with simply Carrying the Antidote. Sister Trope to Monster Protection Racket. Has nothing to do with Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo.

Examples of Poison and Cure Gambit include:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • In the Punisher MAX storyline "6 Hours to Kill", Frank is blackmailed with a cure to assassinate someone. He instead decides to take down as many criminals as possible before dying.
  • German comic Fix und Foxi had the (mostly) Lovable Rogue Lupo pull this off once. First, he let loose a lot of moths and sold people a spray against them. From said spray, people got an allergic reaction and had to sneeze all the time. He sold them a cure - which made people unbelievable thirsty. Fortunately he sold them a special lemonade which would cure their thirst - but totally mess up their hair. Then he sold them wigs. Which were badly made, with the hair falling out. Then finally, they got it. Cue the mob.
  • A heroic trickster variation. In an issue of Marvel Star Wars, Luke told an imperial officer he had poisoned him, and would give him the antidote once he gave Luke access to computer records. Feeling stomach pains, the officer complied, and then Chewbacca knocked him out. Turns out Luke only put soap flakes in the officer's soup.


  • This was the Big Bad's plan in the third Mission Impossible movie...
    • And in the second one, it was more subtle than that: The Big Bad wanted stock-options of a company he sold the antidote to, allowing him to get his share when said company made big bucks.
  • ...and ditto the second Tomb Raider movie.
  • V for Vendetta: The head of the local government gets to his position by spreading a plague through the area, blaming it on enemies, and then, once "elected", distributes a cure through a medical company he has stock in.
  • "And now doctor Jones, you give me the diamond."
  • In Escape From L.A., Snake is infected with the Plutoxin 7 virus, which will kill him in 10 hours unless he gets the President's daughter and the EMP satellite control device she stole. Subverted in that at the end, it's revealed that "Plutoxin 7" is merely a fast-acting, hard-hitting case of... the flu.


  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, Baron Fell of Jackson's Whole has this as the basis of most of his business, selling both traditional military weaponry and their defenses, as well as manufacturing chemical and biological weapons along with their cures.
  • A variation occurs in John Collier's famous story The Chaser: The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday sells a Love Potion for a pittance which the owner strongly implies will turn the main character's beloved into a Love Freak. The antidote in this case is the "chaser" of the title, which is some sort of poison to "solve" that problem.
  • Thomas of Magnus, the hero of Sigmund Brouwer's Wings of Dawn, uses this — the price of being given regular doses of antidote is continued cooperation from the agents pursuing him, all of whom claim to be with the good guys and want him to join them. In reality, this is a Batman Gambit to weed out which side is lying; Knowing that the villains have fewer compunctions about fighting dirty and think they're smarter than he is, Thomas is slipping non-lethal doses into every meal and providing them with flavored water as the "antidote". When he "inadvertently" allows them enough information to determine the recipe of the supposed antidote, the villain works it out and seizes the opportunity to... poison himself. OOPS.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry pulls a unique subversion by poisoning HIMSELF so that he can strong-arm a faerie with an interest in his survival into cooperating with his plan.
  • In The Inheritance Cycle this gambit is used to ensure that Arya couldn't escape prison, as only her captors had the antidote.
  • The Corporations of Oryx and Crake, particularly HelthWyzer, made a business out of creating new diseases, inserting them into their vitamin supplements, and then selling the proprietary cures at high prices. This practice came back to bite the human race in the butt later, when Crake takes it to the next level.
  • In William Gibson's Neuromancer, protagonist Henry Case is controlled by his employer via sacs of poison placed into his blood vessels.
  • The villainous corporation in Confessions of Super-Mom makes both insulin and cereal, and deliberately uses the cereal to give children diabetes.
  • In Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, master poisoner Castor Morveer and his apprentice Day use this a number of times. In some instances the trope is played straight, while in other cases there was actually no poison at all; in one of those cases, the proffered antidote is actually the real poison.
  • Fails epically in the first book of David Weber's Prince Roger series. Roger and his Marines are poisoned and ordered to fight for a tin-pot dictator with this gambit... which backfires amazingly because they're from a totally different planet.
  • Barbara Hambly's Sun Wolf And Starhawk novel The Ladies of Mandrigyn pulls a particularly delicious version of this gambit: at the beginning of the book, a poisoner slips Sun Wolf a particularly dreadful poison and daily casts spells keeping it from affecting him, but will not remove it from his system until he's completed a task. Much later, he decides dying horribly is better than the alternatives, and escapes to crawl off and suffer the effects of the poison... which turn out to be the lost shamanic initiation everyone's been searching for the whole book. It's just better known as a poison, because it IS torturous and only a few are equipped to survive it.

Live Action TV


 River: This device can disarm micro-explosives from up to 40 feet.

Trader: Interesting, what kind of explosives? *Takes a sip of wine*

River: The kind I just put in your wine.

  • The Doctor does this to a corrupt and compassionless Jerkass hospital administrator on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.
  • Elizabeth does this to get Jim out of prison in the season finale of Terra Nova. She was bluffing. The "cure" she injected was a sedative.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

  • Used on a global scale in Deus Ex, with the synthetic disease "The Gray Death" (and very expensive vaccine "Ambrosia").
  • The original Baldur's Gate had a side-quest where you were poisoned by an assassin, so you'd die in 10 days if his partner in crime weren't ready to help you... for a price of removing the geas his "partner" put on him to make him cooperate.
  • Hello, Roboenza.
  • Eidolons of Final Fantasy XIII start out by casting Doom on your party leader, leaving you with a time limit to defeat them. If you beat them, though, you get a fancy new summon!

Western Animation

Real Life

  • There was a thought experiment that played with this trope. The premise was that your best friend is dying of a unique disease, and the only cure is held by a doctor who wants more money for it than you can get. It's supposed to provoke questions of what morality truly means.