Profiting from Swine Flu

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

While the pork industry has been sweating out the swine flu panic, fearing a loss of markets and profits, another industry has been gearing up to make a killing off the virus: pharmaceutical companies. Responding to the hysteria over a potential pandemic, the makers of Tamiflu (Roche) and Relenza (GlaxoSmithKline), two anti-viral drugs designed to fight flu bugs, have sold 11 million doses of the medications to the federal government, which already had millions more on hand. In preparation for an outbreak of the bird flu, federal officials earlier this decade paid $2 billion to Roche for 20 million doses of Tamiflu, and the Pentagon ponied up $58 million for supplies to protect U.S. troops worldwide.

The news media has praised the effectiveness of Tamiflu, while ignoring other potential dangers of the medicine. Shortly after the remedy first hit the market, reports surfaced of two teenagers who killed themselves after taking Tamiflu. The Food and Drug Administration disregarded these first warning signs, and only after 100 other cases—involving delirium, hallucinations and other abnormal psychiatric behavior in children treated with Tamiflu—did the FDA require Roche to include a warning label cautioning patients, doctors and parents to look out for strange behavior in anyone taking the drug.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Swine Flu: Bringing Home the Bacon (by James Ridgeway, Mother Jones)
Childhood Deaths in Japna Bring New Look at Flu Drug (by Andrew Pollack, New York Times)


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