A Nation Challenged--Stockpiling: U.S. Moving to Buttress Defense Against the Bioterrorism Threat
New York Times; B8
According to Tommy Thompson, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, the government plans to begin stockpiling antibiotics and has pushed its order for smallpox vaccines up two years in delivery time. In the meantime, experts say there are sufficient resources available to handle isolated outbreaks of infection or exposure, as is happening now with anthrax, but should mass numbers of the population become infected at the same time, the public health infrastructure could not handle it. The German drug maker Bayer has decided to reopen a factory in Germany in November to increase production of ciprofloxacin (Cipro), the only antibiotic approved thus far by the Food and Drug Administration to treat inhaled anthrax. An additional $643 million in funding is being sought for the purchase of extra Cipro stockpiling, but health authorities have said that because penicillin and some other antibiotics can be used in treatment against anthrax, some of the funding will be funneled to stockpile them as well. Smallpox has no treatment--the only protection comes from the vaccine--and the U.S. government has stockpiled 15.4 doses and has ordered 40 million more of the new vaccine from the British drug maker Acambis.