According to the Los Angeles Times, with the exception of existing in locked freezers in Russia and U.S. labs, the smallpox virus was eradicated in 1978. Yet, in a no-bid contract, the Obama administration has given $443 million of American taxpayers’ money for a “experimental smallpox drug” to a bio-defense company, Siga, controlled by billionaire Democrat-donor Ron Perleman and whose board ex-SEIU boss Andy Stern sits on.
According to the Times:
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.
Siga was awarded the final contract in May through a “sole-source” procurement in which it was the only company asked to submit a proposal. The contract calls for Siga to deliver 1.7 million doses of the drug for the nation’s biodefense stockpile. The price of approximately $255 per dose is well above what the government’s specialists had earlier said was reasonable, according to internal documents and interviews.
Siga’s questionable government deal may eventually mean $2.8 billion in revenues for the company—thought Siga’s profits would have to be split with its former partner in a failed merger, PharmAthene.
In September, after years of litigation following a failed merger, a Delaware court ruled that PharmAthene was entitled to 50% of Siga’s profits from its ST-246 smallpox vaccines.
While the Times notes that there is no credible evidence that the threat of a smallpox outbreak is imminent and that the U.S. already owns enough vaccine to treat the entire population, the Obama administration’s ties to Siga become even more questionable, considering the recent recommendation to start experimenting with an Anthrax vaccine on America’s children.
A key panel of government advisers Friday recommended that the federal government sponsor a controversial study to test the anthrax vaccine in children to see whether the inoculation would protect young Americans against a bioterrorist attack.
The National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB), which advises the federal government on issues related to bioterrorism, voted 12-1 to recommend that the Health and Human Services Department move forward with a study aimed at determining whether the vaccine is safe and effective in children and identifying the best dose. Patricia Quinlisk of the Iowa Department of Public Health, who chairs the panel, was the only dissenter.
Nicole Lurie, the assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response who requested the panel’s review, said officials would consider the panel’s recommendation, but she did not give a time-frame for a decision on whether to conduct the study. [Emphasis added.]
Interestingly the primary producer of the Anthrax vaccine is PharmAthene. While PharmAthene has reportedly spent millions lobbying in 2011, there is at least one call for PharmAthene and Siga to consider merging again.
While, according to USA Today, the Obama administration will not begin testing Anthrax vaccine on children for now while it resolves the ethical questions, it is noteworthy that the panel review for testing Anthrax vaccines on children was recommended by Dr. Nicole Lurie.
Lurie, an Obama appointee, is the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the LA Times, Lurie has also been involved in the negotiations over Siga’s profit margin with the smallpox vaccine:
Negotiations over the price of the drug and Siga’s profit margin were contentious. In an internal memo in March, Dr. Richard J. Hatchett, chief medical officer for HHS‘ biodefense preparedness unit, said Siga’s projected profit at that point was 180%, which he called “outrageous.”
In an email earlier the same day, a department colleague told Hatchett that no government contracting officer “would sign a 3 digit profit percentage.”
In April, after Siga’s chief executive, Dr. Eric A. Rose, complained in writing about the department’s “approach to profit,” Lurie assured him that the “most senior procurement official” would be taking over the negotiations.
“I trust this will be satisfactory to you,” Lurie wrote Rose in a letter.
The Obama administration’s apparent willingness to award its cronies with no-bid contracts, as well as the seeming willingness to test questionable vaccines on children makes one wonder if this is what the President meant when he said he has the most open and ethical administration in history.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776