Tamiflu Scandal: Gilead Sciences' Donald Rumsfeld Connection
Tamiflu is being touted as the best way to combat the H1N1 Swine Flu virus which has communities around the world in a pandemic panic, but is there a hidden agenda behind the push? Tamiflu is only one of two readily available anti-viral medications, yet Relenza isn't getting the same cure-it attention.
Could the fact that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has substantial interest in Gilead Sciences, the company that exclusively produces Tamiflu, be part of the reason that Relenza is taking a back seat in the H1N1 Swine Flu treatment plan?
The suggestion of a US government/Tamiflu conflict of interest is not new. It first surfaced in 2005 when then President George W. Bush pushed for and won $7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare for an influenza pandemic that was not even yet on the horizon.
George W. Bush pushed for the emergency funding to develop a strategy against a Bird Flu type pandemic in the US, more than 14% of which went to one company, Gilead Sciences, producer of Tamiflu. Not so scandalous in and of itself until you learn that prior to becoming Defense Secretary Donald Rumsleld was Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences, a post he held from 1997 to 2001.
Prominent among the President’s (then George Bush) list of emergency measures was a call for Congress to appropriate another $1 billion explicitly for Tamiflu.
Conflict of interest or insider trading?
The saga of Tamiflu is just the tip of a big iceberg. As we noted in an earlier article, the real point of interest is the company in California who developed Tamiflu, Gilead Sciences, listed on the NASDAQ as (GILD). As we also noted, US Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, was Chairman of the Board of Gilead Sciences from 1997 until early 2001 when he became Defense Secretary. Rumsfeld had been on the board of Gilead since 1988, some thirteen years.
Is U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally profiting from fears that a worldwide bird flu pandemic may occur? Yes. Rumsfeld once served as chairman of Gilead Sciences, Inc., the company that holds the patent on the antiviral drug Tamiflu, currently regarded as the world's best hope for the prevention and treatment of avian influenza. He still owns Gilead stock valued at between $5 million and $25 million.
The Rumsfeld connection to Tamiflu and its parent company Gilead Sciences is an eyebrow raiser which has caused bloggers to raise suspicious alarm bells. But the push to use Tamiflu over Relenza begs the question, why is the Obama administration pushing that one drug over an alternative? It can't possibly have an interest in padding the pockets of George W. Bush loyalists.
The reasons for the Tamiflu push may have been established long before Obama was calling the shots. As part of George W. Bush's 381-page Pandemic Influenza Strategic Plan the US amassed a stockpile of anti-viral medications to combat a future H1N1 pandemic. Starting in 2006 the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) collected Tamiflu and Relenza at a ratio of 80% Tamiflu, 20% Relenza. Total bill to the US taxpayer, $731 million (in 2006 dollars).
Q: What is the target ratio for SNS antivirals (Tamiflu/Relenza)?
A: SNS is currently purchasing antivirals in a ratio of 80% Tamiflu to 20% Relenza. The SNS also includes smaller quantities of rimantadine. Each State should purchase antivirals in a ratio that best fulfills their needs. HHS will be providing additional guidance to States to assist them in making this decision.
Q: What is the federal funding breakdown?
A: Congress appropriated $3.8 billion to help prepare the nation for a pandemic influenza event. Of this money, $3.3 billion was allocated to HHS for:
• $ 1.8 B – Vaccine production and development
• $731 M –Antiviral procurement (includes procurements and research)
• $162 M –Procurement of other medical supplies
• $350 M –State and local readiness
• $161 M –Domestic preparedness
• $ 94 M - International Activities
• $ 38 M – Communications