Rummy's bird flu bonanza / Blair backer's smallpox bonanza (6/11/2005)

1.Rummy's bird flu bonanza
2.Blair backer's smallpox bonanza

Think the US administration is violently opposed to the spirit of precaution?
Not when it favours major corporate interests, it isn't.

EXCERPTS ITEM 1: ...the president called on Congress to immediately pass a new US$7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for that not-imminent not-pandemic danger. Now that's precaution. Prominent among his list of emergency measures was a call for Congress to appropriate another $1 billion for Tamiflu.

Tamiflu was developed and patented in 1996 by a California biotech firm, Gilead Sciences Inc. ...In 1997, before he became Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld was named chairman of the board of Gilead...

...Rumsfeld holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to his federal financial disclosures. In the past six months, the global rush to buy Tamiflu has sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47 - amounting to a windfall of at least $1 million for Rumsfeld. And now, with Gilead collecting royalties averaging 10% from Roche's sales of Tamiflu, he is poised to reap more gains for a flu panic his administration has done everything it can to promote.

...It appears that the defense secretary is quite an accomplished hand at getting the government to buy vaccines from companies in which he has a direct financial interest. Recall the scare just after September 11, 2001 when the Bush administration was talking loudly about the "possible" danger of Osama bin Laden... releasing a deadly smallpox attack that would devastate the American population.

...Rumsfeld at that time ordered members of the armed forces to be inoculated against smallpox, an inoculation with horrendous side effects. The package also included injection with a drug named Vistide, to treat side-effects of smallpox infection should it occur.

Vistide was also a product of Gilead Sciences...

This has its parallels in the UK where not only has Blair's government ordered tens of millions of doses of Tamiflu but where the same smallpox panic led to the awarding of a highly lucrative vaccine contract to the biotech company of Lord Drayson - a financial backer of Blair's who subsequently was made an unelected Minister. Drayson is thought to have made around GBP20m for his company from the smallpox deal. (see item 2)

1.Rummy's bird flu bonanza
By F William Engdahl
Asia Times, Nov 4 2005

No sooner are indictments being handed down to I Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff of the vice president of the United States for lies and coverup regarding information used deliberately to suppress the fact the Bush administration had no "smoking gun" to prove Saddam Hussein was building a nuclear arsenal, but a new scandal is surfacing, every bit as outrageous and ultimately, likely also criminal.

The world population is being whipped into a fear frenzy by irresponsible public health officials from the US administration to the World Health Organization (WHO) to the United States Centers for Disease Control. They all warn about the imminent danger that the bird flu virus might mutate into a malicious strain that is transmissible between humans, contaminating the human species in pandemic proportions. Often the flu pandemic of 1918, which is said to have killed 18 million worldwide, is cited as an example of what "might" lie in store for us.

On November 1, appropriately enough the day after Halloween, President George W Bush visited the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to announce his administration's strategy for preparing for the next flu epidemic, whether from bird flu or some other strain. The plan has been a year in the making. It was no small presidential photo op. The secretaries of state, homeland security, agriculture, health and human services, transportation, and veteran affairs, as well as the director general of the World Health Organization, who flew in from Geneva for the event, were at the president's side.

Bush began his remarks with the now-obligatory scare-story from 1918: "At this moment, there is no pandemic influenza in the United States or the world. But if history is our guide, there is reason to be concerned. In the last century, our country and the world have been hit by three influenza pandemics - and viruses from birds contributed to all of them. The first, which struck in 1918, killed over half-a-million Americans and more than 20 million people across the globe ..."

He was remarkably candid about the imminent danger to the American people: "Scientists and doctors cannot tell us where or when the next pandemic will strike, or how severe it will be, but most agree: at some point, we are likely to face another pandemic. And the scientific community is increasingly concerned by a new influenza virus known as H5N1 - or avian flu ..."

He went on to stress, "At this point, we do not have evidence that a pandemic is imminent. Most of the people in Southeast Asia who got sick were handling infected birds. And while the avian flu virus has spread from Asia to Europe, there are no reports of infected birds, animals, or people in the United States. Even if the virus does eventually appear on our shores in birds, that does not mean people in our country will be infected. Avian flu is still primarily an animal disease. And as of now, unless people come into direct, sustained contact with infected birds, it is unlikely they will come down with avian flu."

Despite all this, the president called on Congress to immediately pass a new US$7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for that not-imminent not-pandemic danger. Now that's precaution. Prominent among his list of emergency measures was a call for Congress to appropriate another $1 billion for Tamiflu.

On October 28, the Senate passed an $8 billion emergency funding bill to address the growing avian flu panic. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, in a moment of candor during the debate on the Senate bill, told the press, "If it isn't the current H5N1 virus that leads to an influenza pandemic, at some point in our nation's future, another virus will."

If a meteorite doesn't hit Washington, DC, in the next days, someday it might ... In the meantime, taxpayer billions will have gone to a handful of pharmaceutical giants positioned to profit. None stands to reap more lucre than the Swiss-US firm, Roche Holdings of Basle.

The only medicine, we are told, which reduces the symptoms of avian flu is a drug called Tamiflu. Today Roche holds the sole license to manufacture Tamiflu. Due to the panic, the order books at Roche are filled to overflowing.

However, the real point of interest is the company in California which developed Tamiflu and gave the marketing rights for its patente

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive