-- FTW has written little
about the Anthrax scare that is being fanned, ad nauseum,
by the major media. The stories that change every five minutes
about the sources and nature of the infections are, to me,
distractions. Bear in mind that - as pointed out be economist
Walter Burien - the average American has a much greater
chance of winning Powerball than contracting the disease.
Another reason why we suspect that the government is being
deliberately indecisive is because they are planning for
major attacks on Iraq
and may want the world to believe that the U.S.
government isnŐt sure about the origins of the spores. This,
to put Saddam Hussein at ease.
But even that possibility
does not answer deeper questions or address lingering suspicions
among many Americans. One of the primary questions asked
by any good journalist in response to any unexplained event
is, "Who benefits?"
Our thanks to investigative
reporter Jim Rarey for the following analysis. -- MCR
ANTHRAX - KEYSTONE KOPS
With the release
this week of a General Accounting Office (GAO) report on
anthrax vaccine and the recent publicity given a California
lawsuit filed last year, an incredible series of bureaucratic
blunders has been exposed both in handling of the anthrax
vaccine and the drug used to treat anthrax exposure.
Major players involved
in "looking the other way" (or not looking at
all) are; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department
of Defense (DOD), and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Also involved are
Bioport in Michigan
(and its predecessor organizations) and the giant German
drug company Bayer.
The Michigan Department
of Public Health received a license from the FDA to produce
anthrax vaccine used primarily to inoculate animals and
veterinarians and others coming into close contact with
animal products. The license was subsequently transferred
to the Michigan Biologic Products Institute (MBPI). The
giant Merck pharmaceutical company produced the vaccine
that had been tested by the FDA for human use in a study
In the late 1980Ős
the DOD requested larger amounts of the vaccine in anticipation
of encountering biological anthrax attacks from Iraq because
the U.S. had sold anthrax spores, equipment and technology
to the Iraqis.
In order to meet
the increased demand, the MBPI changed the process and chemical
composition of its vaccine The FDA was not notified of the
change, as required by law, and according to the GAO report
claims it did not learn of the change until notified by
the GAO ten years later.
As early as 1985,
the DOD realized that the vaccine had not been approved
for use in combating inhalation anthrax. In 1984 a group
of military experts recommended that an application to FDA
be made to obtain that approval. The FDA claims it was not
aware of the Pentagon report until notified by the GAO on
October 15th of this year.
In 1996, after the
license had been transferred to the MBPI, the institute
filed the application for such a license change. To date,
no action has been taken by the FDA on the application.
Processing of the application would have automatically thrown
the vaccine back into the category of experimental or "investigational"
drugs, which have to have the (informed) consent of the
person getting the inoculation. Only the president can waive
the informed consent requirement, which the first President
Bush did in the Gulf War.
Over four hundred
military personnel have either had to resign or face disciplinary
action for refusing to take the vaccine, which was made
mandatory in 1998 by then Defense Secretary William Cohen.
Thousands of others who took the vaccine claim debilitating
diseases have resulted and at least two deaths have been
attributed to it.
As the GAO disclosed
before a congressional subcommittee this week, The FDA had
uncovered serious problems at the MBPI and Bioport in earlier
inspections, including contamination of the vaccine and
serious falsification of records.
Bioport is controlled
by a Company named Intervac owned by Admiral William Crowe
(23%) Nancy El-Hibri, wife of the Bioport Chairman of the
Board (30%), and the remaining 47% by I & F Holdings
controlled by Fuad El-Hibri (husband of Nancy) and his father
Ibrihim El-Hibri. At the time of acquisition of Bioport,
Fuad was a German citizen. Ibrihim is Lebanese. Their company
is incorporated in the Netherlands Antilles.
The treatment of
those exposed to anthrax (both the cutaneous or skin contact
kind and the inhaled variety) is just as muddled as the
Until last week (October
15, 2001) the only drug recommended by the CDC for anthrax
treatment was "Cipro" manufactured by the German
company Bayer. This despite warnings by medical experts
of severe side effects from the drug (too numerous to list
The FDA had ordered
Bayer and other drug manufacturers to withdraw similar drugs
given to animals to fight anthrax and other diseases. Abbot
Laboratories voluntarily withdrew its product but Bayer
is fighting the order in court.
In August, Bayer
was forced to withdraw its anti-cholesterol drug "Baycol",
admitting it might have killed 52 people and potentially
crippled another 1,000. Several lawsuits are pending.
Bayer has a patent
on its Cipro drug that expires in early 2003. It has dominated
the market for this, one of the strongest anti-bacterial
agents on the market. The problems of which experts warn,
is that the active ingredient not only destroys the anthrax
bacteria, but other (good) bacteria needed by humansŐ gastro-intestinal
tract to function properly.
As of last week,
the CDC finally added to its list for effective anthrax
treatment other antibiotics that do not have the same dangerous
Earlier this week,
Tommy Thompson, Secretary of HHS, renegotiated a contract
with Bayer cutting the governmentŐs price per dose nearly
in half to $095 each. Apparently ignoring the proven side
effects of Cipro, the government intends to still make it
its sole medication for use in anthrax cases.
Bayer has been charging
the American public nearly $3.00 each for doses of Cipro.
The recommended treatment is two pills per day for 60 days
bringing the total cost up to about $350. In India, a comparable
generic drug costs an individual about $10.00 for the full
treatment. In Africa, Bayer has been charging up to double
the amount paid by Americans.
What the government
is not telling the public is why Bayer was able to charge
such prices having a virtual monopoly on the drug. In November
of last year, a California company filed a lawsuit against
Bayer and five producers of the generic equivalent of Cipro.
It charges that Bayer had signed marketing agreements in
1997 with those companies to pay them $26 to $30 million
per year to keep their products off the market.
Earlier this week,
on Fox Cable News, the CEO of one of the generic manufacturers
(under sharp questioning by broadcaster Neil Cavuto) admitted
to the arrangement with Bayer. However, he said, the company
had the option of buying Cipro from Bayer and marketing
it. He said his company could make a reasonable profit selling
the drug for less than $1.00 per dose.
As for testing for
the presence of Anthrax, Dr. Scott Lillibridge, the Anti-Terrorism
coordinator for HHS dropped a bombshell during testimony
before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans
Affairs and International Relations last Tuesday. He stated
that there is no present technology that can detect the
presence of anthrax spores in the air.
To make sure they
had heard right, the question was repeated with the same
reply. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson confirmed the statement.
This certainly brings in to question how effective is the
testing in areas where anthrax spores have been detected
on the surface of objects.
This article was
not written to add to the mounting apprehensions the public
has about anthrax. This writer believes most of the American
public is capable of handling the truth, no matter how unsettling
it may be. Evidently, the government does not share that
Permission is granted
to reproduce this article in its entirety.
The author is a free
lance writer based in Romulus, Michigan. He is a former
newspaper editor and investigative reporter, a retired customs
administrator and accountant, and a student of history and
the U.S. Constitution.
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