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Roche is feathering its nest with windfall profits from the bird flu drug, with 2005 third-quarter group sales approaching $20 billion.
Roche is no stranger to price fixing. In 1999, the corporation pleaded guilty to a worldwide conspiracy to form a cartel to criminally "raise, fix and maintain" prices for vitamins sold in the United States and elsewhere. Roche was fined $500 million. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, this record fine was the highest criminal fine in history.
The United States has only enough Tamiflu stockpiled to cover about 2% of its population. Who’s going to get it?
Countries have formulated different priority lists. While Australia embraces funeral directors among those first in line, Canada places key "decision-makers" such as "elected officials" at the top the list. Britain also includes prominent politicians and adds workers at the BBC over pregnant women, children, and sick patients. The mayor of London has stockpiled more than £1 million worth of Tamiflu for his personal office and staff—nearly 100,000 tablets. The United States also intends to prioritize "key government officials." "That’s a different mind-set than people are used to," explained Nebraska’s chief medical officer, "and it’s going to be a little bit controversial."
The Pentagon has long claimed first dibs on the U.S. Tamiflu stockpile, insisting that "top priority for use of vaccine or antiviral medications is in forward deployed operational forces." Given President Bush's suggested militarization of the pandemic response, imagine the conflict this could create between troops in the streets and critical first-responder medical personnel, fighting over the limited supply and further threatening the public health response.
At this point, there will be none left over for the general U.S. population. Do the math: Excluding military appropriation, there are nearly ten million health care workers and more than two million public safety workers such as police and firefighters, more than twice the mid-2006 stockpile. Even among countries with the highest per-capita stockpiles in the world, like Australia, only 10% of the national stockpile is expected to reach the general population.
posted by apc
As far as the underlying facts concerning side effects of the drug, I don't see anything along the line of gag orders.
19/11/05: US clears bird flu drug Tamiflu
America's powerful medicines regulator has ruled there is no evidence of a link between the bird flu drug Tamiflu and the deaths of 12 children in Japan.
A Food and Drug Administration panel found no "causal link" between the deaths over the past 13 months and the drug, which is widely distributed.
Swiss manufacturer Roche welcomed the ruling, saying: "The positive role of Tamiflu remains unchanged."
I was given Tamiflu last year during a rather severe case of the flu (heart almost failed), and while in the hospital I took some time to ask the doctors about the drug. One common element of the conversations was that it was NOT for children. Why is there so much surprise over the fact that kids react adversely to it, when everyone knew in the first place that they shouldn't be taking it?
...on the issue of the language, I see no true fault. Implied fault however, yes it would appear that the FDA is trying to sweep aside this issue. But, it is the responsibility of the prescribing doctors to know what they are writing scripts for, is it not? If people are seeing GPs who don't put enough effort into their practice to do the research, then where does the fault really rest?