Playing Fast and Furious with Drugs

Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.


Pages: 1 2

The President is siccing his always trustworthy and ever-so competent Attorney General Eric Holder on the pharmaceutical industry.

With an Executive Order, Obama assigned the Justice Department to “undertake whatever enforcement actions…it deems appropriate” to regulate the supply of medications. In other words, the industry is seen as guilty unless proven innocent.

From time to time, some medicines have been in short supply for medical caregivers and patients. Treatments for cancer, infections, cardiovascular troubles, and central nervous system problems are particularly in short supply currently.

With a flurry of activity and press coverage to indicate Obama is trying to show he cares that patients shouldn’t die waiting for drugs that could prolong their lives, “the Executive Order, however, “will aggravate the conditions causing the shortage,” The American Spectator reported Nov. 4.

Obama’s Executive Order tells the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look for potential drug shortages and the Justice Department to seek out possible collusion or price gouging (which Obama always suspects from the private sector).

In other words, pharmaceutical companies will be “suspected of criminal activity if they work together or raise prices in ways that—to FDA or DOJ lawyers—seem illegal,” the article added.

Meanwhile, shockingly, the government is buying for $433 million an experimental smallpox drug from a major donor to Democrats and Obama at a time when we face the shortage of cancer-fighting drugs.

The beneficiary of the smallpox deal is Ronald Perelman, a billionaire controlling shareholder of Siga Technologies, Inc., which makes the experimental drug.

As much as Obama wants to keep campaign money rolling in, the plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug makes absolutely no sense. Smallpox was eradicated in 1978 and is known to exist only in locked freezers in the U.S. and Russia. There’s no credible evidence, according to a Los Angeles Times story Nov. 13 that any other country or terrorist group has smallpox to use as a weapon.

If such an attack should occur, the story said, “the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire U.S. population.” The vaccine costs the government $3 a dose and can prevent any fatalities.

As for current drug shortages, a report issued Nov. 14 said that most of the drug shortages are in four key areas. “Supplies of other scarce drugs are either stable or have improved, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a global research organization.

The drug shortage problem is highly concentrated. More than 80 percent of the products are generics and injectables, the study said. “While representing a small part of the overall medicines market, affected products include critical drugs to treat cancer, infection, cardiovascular disease, central nervous system conditions, and pain.” The study also said “Total supply volume for many impacted products has been stable or growing.”

The IMS Institute determined that of drugs believed to be scarce, manufacturers reported stable supplies of 56 drugs and increasing availability of 31 drugs, but 75 products have declined in the past five years.

Reasons for shortages, the IMS study found included manufacturing problems, discontinuations and suspensions of production, inability to meet demand, raw material problems, and contamination or other quality issues. Some drugs are still awaiting FDA approval. There is a misconception that the main problem is older unprofitable generics. The IMS study pinpointed manufacturing problems to be the main reason for shortages.

If companies were allowed to pool resources, (and not be charged with collusion) the production times and costs could go down.

Pages: 1 2

  • Amused

    Tait you are sooooo uninformed [ or deceptive ] on this subject , that your article is nothing more than a partisan comic book .
    There is no law , especially on the internet against grossly misinforming readers …..but there IS Karma Tait ….better lookout dude , you're no exception .

    • radicalconservative

      Ok amused, state your case. You didn’t refute (because you can’t) anything stated in the article. Buying smallpox vaccine is STUPID, and yes it is an Obama donor who stands to profit.

      • Ken

        Here, here, Radical!!!

    • Barry

      Karma? Then watch yourself, that typing finger is about to be broken.

  • larry

    Obama does these things right out in the open for people to see and nothing is ever done. A lot of time no effort is made to even hide it. It's like this administration is saying to the people "we are going to do this and there is nothing you can do about it." In the health program they bribed two senators to get the votes they needed to pass Obamacare. They did it right out in the open for everyone to see and nothing was done. I think Obama can do anything he wants and nothing will happen to him. I do not know what happened to the citizens of the United States but unless this is changed this country is doomed.

  • larry

    Congress may as well not be there. Obama doesn't pay any attention to them, he just uses and exicutive order to go around them. He knows he cannot make laws , only the legislative branch can, but he is taking the authority to do things he legally can't do and no one is doing anything about it. He was waiting until the congress was out of session and them appointing whoever he wanted to positions in the government. This administration is the most deseptive administration there has ever been and people are letting them get away with it.

  • kateyleigh

    A smallpox drug, hm? Expecting a smallpox outbreak, are we?

  • Rifleman

    Hussein's handler Jarret did say they'd "be ready to rule on day one."

    As always with government interference with a market, expect prices to go up, and availability to go down.

  • American Thinker

    Time to get rid of this clown and his puppets. Nov. 2012 is coming!

  • RxPC

    For a better discussion of the impact of drug shortages today, see the recommendations of the drug shortage summit by the ASHP (American Society of Health System Pharmacists). http://www.ashp.org/drugshortages/summitreport.
    Contrary to the assertions in this article, the shortages have been numerous, and have sent hospitals scrambling to find alternative therapies while maintaining safety, quality, and efficacy. The impact has been greatest on medications for the treatment of the most seriously ill, including chemotherapy, anesthesia agents, and drugs used in advanced cardiac life support. While we may not agree with the ASHP on the best method for managing and avoiding drug shortages, we can at least acknowledge that this has become a serious problem.

  • Dee_L

    While I agree with you on the drug shortage issue. I strongly disagree on the issue of the smallpox antiviral procurement.

    The contract was always open to competition with the "winner" the sole source supplier. There were several attempts by HHS to determine a qualifying firm. Following a rigorous process involving two competing firms it was determined Siga's drug best met all the criteria. The loser is now very ticked off and has some serious GOP political clout behind it. Would this still be an issue if the competitor didn't have a beef? Would procurement negotiations from other companies hold up to the same scrutiny?

    This process actually began under the Bush administration when funds were given to Siga to develop the drug in question. The program that fostered development of Siga's drug, as well as drugs from many other smaller biotechs, was created in 2004. It is called project Bioshield and was funded with $5.8 billion to develop and procure medical countermeasures against likely agents that could be used in a bioterrorism attack.
    The CDC considers just one case of smallpox to be a national emergency and cleanup would be economically devastating.

    Also to clarify, this is an antiviral and not a vaccine. Big difference. This is a cure. Think of it like Tamiflu vs. a flu vaccine.

    An antiviral is needed for several reasons. While smallpox was eradicated, anyone with a basic biology degree can reverse engineer the virus from existing pox viruses. It can also be synthesized, which could mean existing vaccines would be ineffective. Smallpox in its early stages mimics cold/flu-like symptoms, meaning many would be diagnosed to late to administer the vaccine. The vaccine only has a four to seven day window after exposure. Not every person can tolerate the vaccine. About 20 to 25% of the population cannot be vaccinated due to a variety of health issues. Vaccines are also known to have serious side effects even in the healthy. There are also people that are vehemently anti vaccine and will refuse vaccination.

    Will the drug work? Interesting note is Siga's product was used successfully in three cases where the vaccine caused serious illness.

    Perleman donates to both parties. Look at the whole Board of Directors. It may surprise you that not long after Stern was appointed, Frances Townsend, Homeland Security Advisor to President Bush, was added.

    The better story is: why is SIGA ‘s competitor with an inferior product and Republican backing allowed to stall this purchase for years and keep a life saving drug from the American public. On Sept.10, 2001 nobody thought the next day that planes would be used as bombs. Let’s not let politics and another failure of imagination put us in harms way again. Especially when we have the means to prevent an outbreak.