Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Praise Big Pharma and pass the ammunition

Is half a loaf better than none? Depends which half.

The US House of Representatives has approved $3.78 billion for bird flu, half of what Bush asked for. Full funding was blocked by conservative republicans in the House who demanded offsets from other programs.

Meanwhile Dr. Frist, the long-distance diagnostician, has gotten up close and personal once again with Big Pharma:
Following hours of late-night negotiations between top Republicans in the Senate and House, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee succeeded in including a provision to protect vaccine, drug and medical device makers against lawsuits in a public health or bioterror emergency.

The avian flu funding was attached to an unrelated defense spending bill passed by the House by a vote of 308-106 that faces an uncertain future in the Senate later this week.

Consumer and health groups opposed the vaccine liability provisions, which were sought by pharmaceuticals, saying it would protect companies from "gross negligence."

Some lawmakers said the measure could make medical personnel and other emergency workers reluctant to get vaccinated if there was a chance they could suffer negative reactions and not get compensated.
The language "gives carte blanche to the vaccine companies, but doesn't provide a mechanism" for people if they are injured by a vaccination, said Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican. (Reuters)
As noted at Pittsburgh bloggers:
The details are yet unclear, as the Congressional Record hasn't updated for last night, but AP and Reuters are reporting the general gist: Sen. Frist, ignoring calls by Democrats to merely place any bird-flu vaccine on the list of those covered under the National Vaccine Compensation Fund, set up two decades ago to compensate children injured by routine childhood shots, wants even stricter liability coverage for vaccines yet unproved to even work, let alone be safe.
I'm sure the troops will feel the love from this defense bill when they find out damages from experimental vaccines (like the anthrax vaccine debacle) are just their tough luck.