Bioterror: Vaccines vs. Antidotes
USA Today; 21A
A city infected with a disease by bioterrorists would need a treatment far more than a vaccine, but not many treatments exist, asserts Scott Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of the Gilder Biotech Report, in a USA Today commentary. The federal government is working on obtaining additional stocks of smallpox vaccine and preparing for rapid vaccinations, before symptoms develop, but Gottlieb says that the focus should be on antidotes. "There are some antiviral drugs that could effectively treat smallpox that are already on the market for other diseases, and even better drugs that could be targeted specifically to the smallpox virus," he notes. To spur the development of new antidotes, federal health officials need to tell companies what kind of drugs they want, accompanying that with a minimum bid to attract entrepreneurial enterprises. Antidotes could lessen the deaths and threats from anthrax as well as smallpox, and potential treatments exist, but without stimulation from the government, they will not be further developed, Gottlieb concludes.