December 9, 2005

Pharma To Republicans - Time To Pay Up Again

Pharma To Republicans - Time To Pay Up Again
By Evelyn Pringle

The generation of children injured by vaccines containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal is now reaching puberty. Many of these children will require life-long care and support. The cost to their parents by today's standards, will reportedly exceed $2 million dollars for each child.

An ever-growing number of health care professionals point to thimerosal as the culprit behind the explosion in cases of autism and other neurological disorders. The only common thread connecting these damaged children to one another is their exposure to mercury through childhood immunizations.

Accountability from vaccine makers is something that parents of injured children have been seeking for years; but accountability appears more illusive with each year's passage. On October 27 2005, the Hartford Courant reported that "Congress is considering a bill that would allow the government to order that vaccines be given to every U.S. citizen in a national emergency, even if a vaccine has previously harmed some people."

The Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2005 (S 1873), is being pushed through Congress without giving voters the chance to make their objections known to their elected officials.

Nicknamed "Bioshield Two," the bill's primary sponsor, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), claims the Act will give the Department of Health and Human Services "additional authority and resources to partner with the private sector to rapidly develop drugs and vaccines."

Co-sponsored by Senators Bill Frist (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Judd Gregg (R-NH), the Act will in truth, eliminate current regulatory and legal safeguards applied to vaccines.

What kind of profits need protecting? A good example is GlaxoSmithKline, which predicts that some of its new vaccines will become blockbusters with projected sales of more than $1 billion a year, according to Reuters on June 30, 2005. Glaxo aims to launch five major vaccines by 2010, it said.

Another example, for people who believe there’s no profit in vaccine making, “tell it to Wyeth, a big drug maker whose vaccine Prevnar ... costs more than $250 for the four-dose treatment given to infants,” says Kristine Severyn, PhD, author of the report, Profits, Not Science, Motivate Vaccine Mandates Vaccine Policy Institute.

Despite the price, "the government has recommended that all infants get the vaccine, and insurers generally pay for it - as does the federal Vaccines for Children program for low-income families. Prevnar, with sales expected to top $1 billion this year," says Severyn.

Severyn's predictions were right on. According to Wyeth's 2005 first quarter earnings report, Prevnar achieved net revenue of $391 million, more than double the first quarter earnings in 2004.

Bush’s FY2006 budget proposes to improve access to vaccines by allowing underinsured children to receive Vaccines for Children at state and local health clinics. The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that cost of the proposal will be $140 million in 2006, and $700 million over the 2006-2010 period.

How much does this sort of government protection cost? For starters, according to the Center for Public Integrity, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), is the industry's trade organization and it has topped the list of pharmaceutical lobbying spending since 1998, shelling out $74 million. Its members include 16 of the industry's 20 largest companies and their subsidiaries and its current president is Billy Tauzin, is a former Republican congressman from Louisiana.

In the 2002 election cycle, PhRMA gave $3,505,052 with 95% going to Republicans. The top recipient in the Senate was none other than Senator Richard Burr, who received $288,684, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. So far in the 2006 cycle, Gregg has received over $106,000 and Enzi has taken in $21,000 in pharma money.

Frist is a real piece of work. He has been trying to get a law passed to protect the drug companies for years. In 2002, he was behind the dead of night insertion of a provision into the Homeland Security bill that would have immunized vaccine makers from lawsuits related to thimerosal.

Frist has made millions upon millions profiting off human misery. The basis of the family fortune is the Hospital Corporation of America, the largest for-profit hospital conglomerate in the nation. However, the corporation also paid the largest health care settlement in history of more than $1.7 billion in civil and criminal penalties to settle charges of massive Medicare and Medicaid billing fraud.

Until recently, Frist and his wife owned $26 million worth of HCA stock. They are currently being investigated on charges of insider trading in the sale of HCA stock in the weeks immediately before the stock's value plummeted, and conflict of interest charges involving his ownership of HCA stock which he had previously claimed he knew nothing about because in accordance with ethics rules, it was in a "blind trust."

According to the Center for Justice and Democracy, Frist has received more than $2.3 million from doctors, health insurers, drug companies and others in the health care industry, raising more cash from health-care interests than 98% of his colleagues. In return, his legislative work in the Senate consists of almost nothing but trying to push through laws to increase profits for his number one backer.

Its worth noting that while Frist was its chairman, the pharmaceutical industry was also the largest single contributor to the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, doling out about $4 million, with Eli Lilly, the company that invented thimerosal, being the single biggest contributor, giving $1.6 million.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a watchdog advocacy group, is highly critical of the pending protection legislation. According to the group's President, Barbara Loe Fisher, "It is a big lie that drug companies have been driven out of business by lawsuits in the past two decades.” The NVIC calls the Act "a drug company stockholder's dream and a consumer's worst nightmare."

According to NVIC, currently there are at least ten different bills pending in Congress that will contain provisions to shield drug companies from lawsuits including S3, S975, S1437, S1828, S1873, S1880, HR650, HR3154, HR3970, and HR4245.

"This proposed legislation," Fisher told UPI, "is an unconstitutional attempt by some in Congress to give a taxpayer-funded handout to pharmaceutical companies for drugs and vaccines the government can force all citizens to use while absolving everyone connected from any responsibility for injuries and deaths which occur."

The bill establishes the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA), as the single authority for the advanced research and development of drugs and vaccines and grants the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the sole authority to determine whether a drug maker violated drug safety laws. In addition, the Act specifically bars citizens from challenging the Secretary's rulings in court.

BARDA will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and the Federal Advisory Committee Act, to ensure that no evidence related to injuries caused by vaccines classified as "countermeasures" will become public.

"It means that, if an American is injured by an experimental flu or anthrax vaccine he or she is mandated to take," Fisher told UPI, "that citizen will be banned from exercising the Constitutional right to a jury trial even if it is revealed that the vaccine maker engaged in criminal fraud and negligence in the manufacture of the vaccine."

In a November 15, 2005, letter to Senator Burr's staff director, Fisher describes S 1873 as "arguably unconstitutional" because it (1) lacks transparency into the research, development, licensure and post-licensure surveillance of vaccines and drugs used in public health emergencies; (2) lacks accountability for either manufacturers of these products or government health officials who mandate their use without informed consent; and (3) lacks justice for those who will inevitably die or suffer chronic illnesses after being compelled to take these products.

“It is exactly this type of legislation that leads to civil disobedience and many times in the extreme form,” Dr Boyd Haley, a well-known expert on heavy metal toxicity, told this author, “I am very fearful of how certain segments of our society will respond to any mass vaccination program---especially if it does cause a problem like the thimerosal/autism situation,” he said.

As it stands today, if the Bush administration and its puppets in Congress achieve their common goal of protecting pharma profits by shielding vaccine makers from lawsuits, tax payers will have to foot the bill for the life-long costs of caring for millions of injured children.

Tax payers are already funding their special education needs. In a January 14, 2005, letter to a Congressional Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), informed committee members that the number of children diagnosed with autism served under the IDEA has increased by more than 500% in the last decade and that "about 1.5 million Americans are currently living with some form of autism."

In a recent interview with Teri Small published in the journal, Medical Veritas 2 (2005), Dr Geier said that he believes that this may be the greatest iatrogenic epidemic in history. "The damage already done to our society is already in the trillions of dollars," he warns. "The damage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and that of the AIDS epidemic pale when compared to the current epidemic of autism," he told Veritas.

"All of us alive," Dr Geier says, "will have to bear its effects both in the lifetime care of the damaged children and the loss of what they otherwise might have contributed to our society."


Evelyn Pringle

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