Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 3, 2011

Prepositioning Antibiotics for Anthrax

Filed under: Biosecurity — by Arnold Bogis on October 3, 2011

A new Institute of Medicine report considers the issue of propositioning antibiotics to shorten the response time to an anthrax attack.

To be completely honest, I have yet to read the report.  However, it seems worthy of serious review by those concerned about biological events in general–regardless of origin.

I am almost always in favor of giving more discretion to those closest to the event in question.  Local and State responders, officials, and citizens will be better off if there is less centralized control of not only the relevant antibiotics needed for response to an anthrax attack, but also the authorities and capacity to deal with what might occur with the minimum of outside interference.

The difficulty is providing for funding for such rare events.  If not the federal government, can we truly depend or even hope that local officials will consider spending limited funds on infrequent threats?

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Comment by Alan Wolfe

October 4, 2011 @ 7:47 am

It’s not a bad report. I was anticipating a more hysterical report, but it’s actually reasonable in the assessment that 1) prepo could be expensive, 2) state/locals need to consider the real risk of an anthrax attack, and 3) DHHS needs to exercise its SNS to know what it takes to get vaccines out there. Overall, pretty rounded report and very detailed. Kudos to the NAS.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 4, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

Hoping all will see movie “Contagion” and also realize how few vaccines can be produced domestically. That fact not mentioned in the movie.

When we talk of post 9/11/01 successes was not the Anthrax attack the same fall? Is there a comprehensive book out discussing those attacks and the roles played by all from Tommy Thomas who announced it came from rural streams in N.Carolina to the FBI and their lengthy investigation into who was the perp and the NAS[National Academy of Science] report on the FBI effort?

Seems that attack had some significance even beyond the airborne attacks on 9/11/01 and of course also airborne in a different way. Check the Wikipedia entry.

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 4, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

After posting the comment above I received a list-serve notice of new Academy of Science pubs and one dealt with the precise issue of prepositioning for Anthrax vaccine. It is a free and downloadable pdf from NAS available on their website. I have not read this report.

Comment by Alan Wolfe

October 5, 2011 @ 8:01 am

Just a minor point, the reason why there are few to no Big Pharma firms producing vaccines in the United States is that it is prohibitively expensive to rebuild/refit aging 1970s-era production lines to do so. Part of the problem is old FDA regulations, which can’t be fixed until the Congress allows FDA to actually hire enough people to examine and reform the process and to work with industry at a pace to keep up with demand. Note, I am not, repeat not, suggesting that Congress should just abandon FDA regulations in an effort to “revitalize” industry, as that cure might be worse than the disease (pun intended).

Comment by William R. Cumming

October 5, 2011 @ 11:02 am

If Mr. Wolfe is correct then someone needs to get to work fast as two large vaccine domestic production facilities are under way.

Comment by Tom Russo

October 6, 2011 @ 9:37 am

In terms of vaccine supply, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was an interesting test of our influenza vaccine production and supply capability. Approximately 63% of our vaccine supply came from off-shore manufacturers, I believe the number was four. Our one domestic manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur in PA, supplied the balance of 37% of our H1N1 vaccine. Since then and through pandemic preparedness legislation, a North Carolina plant with cell-based technology has come online. So, the US has begun to invest in domestic flu vaccine production capabilities.

In contrast, Canada invested in its domestic vaccine production capability ten years ago when it couldn’t buy vaccine on the open market (from the US) for an outbreak. It nows has sufficient capacity to sell excess to the world market. The government has had an agreement with the privately held manufacturers that it would produce vaccine in a public health emergency for domestic consumption.

Another bit of trivia not well known in regards to CDC and SNS vaccine distribution is that H1N1 vaccine was purchased and managed by BARDA. In terms of vaccine provision, SNS was on the sideline. Vaccination supplies was purchased through the BARDA mechanism, as specified in the pandemic legislation. CDC did direct vaccine distribution based on its priority group scheme.

Comment by Donald Quixote

November 14, 2011 @ 11:34 am

What about smallpox? Is it a current and realistic threat or a money making scheme for a political donor?


Cost, need questioned in $433-million smallpox drug deal A company controlled by a longtime political donor gets a no-bid contract to supply an experimental remedy for a threat that may not exist.

Los Angeles Times

November 13, 2011

Reporting from Washington- Over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work.

Senior officials have taken unusual steps to secure the contract for New York-based Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, one of the world’s richest men and a longtime Democratic Party donor.

When Siga complained that contracting specialists at the Department of Health and Human Services were resisting the company’s financial demands, senior officials replaced the government’s lead negotiator for the deal, interviews and documents show.

When Siga was in danger of losing its grip on the contract a year ago, the officials blocked other firms from competing.


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