Last week, the two companies involved in the production of Tamiflu — touted as the globe's savior should there be an avian flu pandemic — negotiated a new financial arrangement. Roche will now pay Gilead 14-22% of Tamiflu revenue, up from last year's 10%. The drug was a "lackluster" seller before pandemic fears, which reached new heights earlier this month when President Bush outlined a $7.1 billion pandemic response plan.
American mainstream media continue to ignore the White House connection (some call it crony capitalism) to its flu plan ($1 billion is specifically earmarked for Tamiflu). Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld owns Gilead stock valued at $5-25 million. US Liberals Deborah White reported this connection on 1 November. And yet. A Google news search of "Rumsfeld and Tamiflu" yields only 84 stories; a large percentage of these are foreign press. Not surprisingly, Google's BlogSearch has 627 hits; Technorati, 507 in the last five days.
When Rumsfeld left the board of Gilead, shares were trading at about $7. Since last year, the stock has increased more than 57% (the Pentagon bought $58 million worth for soldiers this summer). In November, the share price has jumped about 20%. Last year, sales of Tamiflu were about $258 million, according to Roche, which manufactures the drug under a royalty agreement with Gilead. Roche estimates 2005 sales at $1 billion.
Tamiflu is an antiviral; it can lessen flu symptoms and also may prevent the flu. However, dangerous possible side-effects are being reported. Flu vaccines are incubated in chicken eggs; thus those with egg allergies should not take a flu shot. Global Research in Canada has also explored the economic impact on agribusiness, providing a close examination of poultry production practices by its neighbor to the south.
Media and blogs following this story include:Bear Creek Research, Cleveland Indy Media, GM Watch, Gates of Horn, Health Philosophy Politics And Other Rants, Leaves of Grass, Martini Republic,Milfuegos, Ontic, React Magazine, Religious Wrongs, Working for Change
This article first appeared at uspolitics.about.com