Sunday, December 02, 2007

Your Marketplace At Work

Free market capitalism? Ha! There ain't no such thing. This is how it really works. LATimes (12.02.07):
"Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent anthrax mailings, top U.S. science advisors said the country 'urgently needed' a new, improved anthrax vaccine.

The existing vaccine often caused swollen arms and muscle and joint pain. Inoculation required six injections over 18 months, followed by yearly booster shots. The estimated shelf life was just three years."

New anthrax vaccine doomed by lobbying

"The scientists' report, issued by the Institute of Medicine, called for 'an anthrax vaccine free of these drawbacks' -- a vaccine that would require only two or three injections, achieve protection within 30 days, stay potent for a long time and cause fewer adverse reactions."

Should've been a no-brainer, right? Think again. "Yet nearly six years later, the old vaccine is still the only one available -- and the government is buying it in mass quantities for the Strategic National Stockpile."

How did they pull that off? Simple. Lobbyists and bribery. "The manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions Inc. of Rockville, Md., prevailed in a bitter struggle with a rival company that was preparing what federal health officials expected to be a superior vaccine. The episode illustrates the clout wielded by well-connected lobbyists over billions in spending for the Bush administration's anti-terrorism program.

"Emergent's rival, VaxGen Inc. of South San Francisco, had spent four years developing a new anthrax vaccine and had won an $877.5-million federal contract to deliver enough doses for 25 million people. The contract threatened Emergent's very existence. The old vaccine, its only moneymaker, would likely be obsolete if VaxGen succeeded."

"Emergent responded by mobilizing more than 50 lobbyists, including former aides to Vice President Dick Cheney, to make the case that relying on the new vaccine was a gamble and that the nation's safety depended on buying more of Emergent's product."

"The company and its allies in Congress ridiculed VaxGen and impugned the competence or motives of officials who supported the new vaccine. The lobbying effort damaged VaxGen's credibility with members of Congress and the Bush administration, a Los Angeles Times investigation found."



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