Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sign here, I'll fill in the amount later

Tomorrow the Republican Senate is slated to vote on the defense appropriations conference report. It has passed the Republican House. This is the bill that has oil drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, the vaccine and drug industry liability immunity provisions, and only half the President's request for bird flu in it. Defense appropriations. Get it?

It's a so-called "must pass" bill loaded down with GOP stinkers. Big oil got its gift through demented political hack Senator Ted ("Bridge to Nowhere") Stevens, representing Alaska. The drug industry's liability immunity Christmas gift came from Quack Senator Bill Frist, representing Big Pharma (and in his spare time, sometimes Tennessee). But he didn't get it there by coercing or convincing members of the conference to sign the report that contained it. Apparently he inserted it after everyone signed it. Thus many Dems were reduced to scrawling remonstrances later.

Here's more, from
Frist inserted into the DoD conference report a provision granting incredibly broad legal immunity to drug manufacturers involved in fighting avian flu. He happens to own a bit of stock in at least three companies that will benefit from the provision.

Also, Don Rumsfeld owns millions of dollars in stock in the patent holder of tamiflu. If Frist's immunity provision passes through the Senate, it'll be basically immune from prosecution. If you haven't followed Rumsfeld's Tamiflu conflict, definitely read here.
How will Frist benefit?
At minimum, he has three interests that would directly benefit from the vaccine immunity provisions. First, he owns more than a thousand dollars worth of stock in Abbott Laboratories. Abbott produces the antibiotic Biaxin, used to treat flu-related secondary infections, expected to be used in avian flu treatment regimes. In what is certainly a mere coincidence, the FDA just issued a public warning about the Biaxin, as a study seems to show it killing a fair number of people. Those people would be left high and dry by Frist’s legislation.

Second, he owns more than a thousand dollars of stock in Johnson & Johnson. J&J partnered with BioCryst in the production of peramivir, an anti-viral that could be part of any anti-Avian flu regime. While it looks like J&J has given up its rights to peramivir, as we saw with Gilead, marketing and production agreements are “flexible,” to say the least.

Third, he owns more than a thousand dollars of stock in Proctor & Gamble. P&G has partnered with Sanofi-Aventis, the French pharmaceutical company already contracted by the government to develop an Avian flu vaccine. (
As for the provisions themselves, they eliminate gross negligence as a cause of action and require "willful misconduct," an unrealistically high bar for victims.
These provisions are broad. Incredibly broad. They will require anybody injured by any “drug, biological product or device that is used to mitigate, prevent, treat, or cure a pandemic or epidemic or limit the harm such pandemic or epidemic might otherwise cause” to prove that the harm derived from “willful misconduct” rather than negligence. If you’ve got an hour, you can read the provisions in this incredibly large pdf, starting on page 423, proceeding through page 463.
Since there was only 40 minutes of debate on the entire bill, I don't think any members read it before voting.

This certainly makes success in Iraq more likely, if the standard is a democracy like ours.