|ANTHRAX AND THE VACCINE|
|Which is worse -- a deadly disease, or the vaccine that guards against it? Experts answer your questions.|
Who's making money from this? I don't know the details, but I remember hearing someplace that only one company produces the vaccine and some former (perhaps current) government or military officials stand to make some cash from this. I'd certainly like to hear more about this company, even if the collusion aspect is false.
Col. Randy Randolf
More than 40% of FDA-licensed vaccines are produced by single source manufacturers. These include: cholera vaccine, Japanese encephalitis vaccine, Lyme disease vaccine, meningococcal vaccine, mumps vaccine, injectable poliovirus vaccine, oral poliovirus vaccine, rubella vaccine, live typhoid vaccine, varicella vaccine, and yellow fever vaccine.
BioPort Corporation is the sole manufacturer of the anthrax vaccine. BioPort, whose headquarters is located in Lansing, Michigan, is owned by multiple shareholders. The two main companies that make up BioPort are Intervac, headed by William Crowe and Faud El-Hibri, and Michigan Biologic Products Inc., which is made up of seven managers from the era when the State of Michigan owned the plant, headed by Robert Myers. The former state employees were specifically permitted by the Michigan State Legislature to bid on the sale. The legislators hoped that retaining local management as investors would help keep the plant and its 174 jobs in Michigan. Admiral William Crowe, Jr., is a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the U.S. ambassador to Britain until 1997. Fuad El-Hibri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, transformed a British government plant for vaccine production into a successful private venture.
As Admiral Crowe testified to the U.S. Congress in October 1999, the government's decision to vaccinate the Armed Forces was made after several years of internal analysis that culminated in a December 1997 decision. These events occurred well before the State of Michigan chose to sell its vaccine-production facilities to BioPort Corporation.
The current cost of a single dose of anthrax vaccine is approximately $10.64. The full six-dose regimen costs about $63.84. This per-dose price is lower than the cost of some vaccines on CDC contracts and considerably lower than most civilian vaccine prices (see http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vfc/vaccines/htm)
Meryl Nass responds:
There is only one manufacturing facility in the US that has ever produced anthrax vaccine. It belonged to the Michigan Department of Public Health until September 1998, when it was sold to the start-up company Bioport. Bioport investors included former managerial employees and a group called Intervac, whose spokesperson is Admiral William Crowe, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Crowe was given a several million dollar portion of the company for his role as a director. Congressional testimony on Sep 30 revealed that the CEO of Bioport, Fuad El Hibri, obtained US citizenship during the process of purchasing the anthrax vaccine manufacturer.
Recently, the company ran into cash flow problems. They asked DOD for help, and received an advance payment of $18.7 million dollars and an increase in the per-dose price from about $3.60 to over $4.00 and then more than $10.00. Congressman Walter Jones (R, NC) has called for an investigation into the financial relationship between DOD and Bioport.
The Hartford Courant has done a very comprehensive series on the anthrax vaccine and created a Web site for their articles, which cover the financial issues as well as others: