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Another Wasted $44 Billion

Although the number of lives lost due to bioterrorism in America -- specifically blamed on anthrax traveling through the mails -- has been tiny, the Bush administration has spent a stunning $44 BILLION fighting it. And, according to the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh, all that spending has made us no safer than before. In fact, America is unable to defend the country against anthrax, the center said, beyond the random mailing of tainted envelopes...

Perhaps, the real focus of the current administration lies in what this New Scientist piece calls "the centerpiece" of America's bioterrorism defense: Project BioShield launched two years ago to convert the already powerful drug company cartel into a team of defense contractors, a complete waste of even more tax dollars.

Because there's no profit in concocting vaccines to fight rare diseases, the Project BioShield has pledged to buy some antiviral product from the drug companies on the front end in hopes the cartel will produce more. Even though the biggest chunk (nearly $900 million) has been allotted to California-based VaxGen for 75 million doses of a "purer" anthrax vaccine, 10 million doses of the military's existing vaccine -- that have forced some soldiers to opt for a court martial rather than risk permanent health problems and death -- are also being made.

However, critics argue identifying a narrow range of diseases and weapons to guard against them -- smallpox, botulism and anthrax -- merely allows enemies to concoct even worse attacks that can be more virulent or drug-resistant, the very same theory posed by Dr. Meryl Nass.

Perhaps, the more urgent concern ought to be less money spent on needless, useless vaccines to guard against bioterrorism and more of it used to prevent the needless deaths of some 800,000 Americans annually as a result of conventional medical mistakes.

New Scientist October 6, 2006

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