I am not a proponent of vaccination. But does anyone see the preposterousness of this story?
Baxter: Product contained live bird flu virus (27th February 2009)
The company that released contaminated flu virus material from a plant in Austria confirmed Friday that the experimental product contained live H5N1 avian flu viruses.
And an official of the World Health Organization’s European operation said the body is closely monitoring the investigation into the events that took place at Baxter International’s research facility in Orth-Donau, Austria.
“At this juncture we are confident in saying that public health and occupational risk is minimal at present,” medical officer Roberta Andraghetti said from Copenhagen, Denmark.
“But what remains unanswered are the circumstances surrounding the incident in the Baxter facility in Orth-Donau.”
The contaminated product, a mix of H3N2 seasonal flu viruses and unlabelled H5N1 viruses, was supplied to an Austrian research company. The Austrian firm, Avir Green Hills Biotechnology, then sent portions of it to sub-contractors in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Germany.
The contamination incident, which is being investigated by the four European countries, came to light when the subcontractor in the Czech Republic inoculated ferrets with the product and they died. Ferrets shouldn’t die from exposure to human H3N2 flu viruses.
Public health authorities concerned about what has been described as a “serious error” on Baxter’s part have assumed the death of the ferrets meant the H5N1 virus in the product was live. But the company, Baxter International Inc., has been parsimonious about the amount of information it has released about the event.
On Friday, the company’s director of global bioscience communications confirmed what scientists have suspected.
“It was live,” Christopher Bona said in an email.
The contaminated product, which Baxter calls “experimental virus material,” was made at the Orth-Donau research facility. Baxter makes its flu vaccine — including a human H5N1 vaccine for which a licence is expected shortly — at a facility in the Czech Republic. Full Story
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Specialty drug maker Baxter International Inc. will work with the World Health Organization to develop a vaccine that could stem an outbreak of a deadly swine flu strain in Mexico.
Baxter spokesman Christopher Bona said Saturday that the Deerfield, Ill.-based company has asked the WHO for a sample of the flu strain. He says Baxter has patented technology that allows the company to develop vaccines in half the time it usually takes — about 13 weeks instead of 26.
Mexico’s health minister says the disease has killed up to 86 people and likely sickened up to 1,400 since April 13. U.S. officials say the virus has been found in New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio, but so far no fatalities have been reported.
Humans don’t have a natural immunity to swine flu strain that emerged in Mexico in March. Officials have warned the outbreak could become a global epidemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say two flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, seem effective against the new strain. GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Relenza, and Roche, which makes Tamiflu, confirmed that the swine flu strain is sensitive to their drugs.
Both Relenza and Tamiflu have to be taken early, within a few days of the onset of symptoms, to be most effective.
GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman Sarah Alspach said Friday the British drugmaker had been in touch with the World Health Organization on identifying the exact strain. Roche spokesman Terry Hurley said the Swiss drug developer’s emergency Tamiflu stockpile is on 24 hour stand-by. The company was contacted by the World Health Organization and is prepared to immediately deploy the stockpile if requested, he said.
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And speaking of Tamilflu, it looks like Rumsfeld stands to profit handsomely:
Rumsfeld’s growing stake in Tamiflu
Defense Secretary, ex-chairman of flu treatment rights holder, sees portfolio value growing.
The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it’s proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that’s now the most-sought after drug in the world.
Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)’s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.
The forms don’t reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead’s stock from $35 to $47. That’s made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.
Rumsfeld isn’t the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead’s board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.
Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.
“I don’t know of any biotech company that’s so politically well-connected,” says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.