Thursday, October 14, 2004

BZZZZT - Wrong Answer (Again), Mr. Bush

In the debate last night, George Bush tried to pin the blame for the current flu vaccine SNAFU on trial lawyers and lawsuits, saying American companies wouldn't manufacture flu vaccine because of concerns regarding lawsuits. By implication, John Edwards was Bush's target of opportunity. Turns out (surprise, surprise) Bush was full of Bushit again:

Flu vaccine shortage: it isn't profitable:

Business competition has diminished largely because federal and state health departments undervalue the vaccine and refuse to guarantee the purchase of fixed amounts. One by one private companies have dropped out of the vaccine business in favor of more lucrative enterprises, such as pharmaceuticals, and the ones that remain use a cheaper but outdated manufacturing system that is vulnerable to contamination.

In a bungled attempt to privatize vaccine manufacturing, the Food and Drug Administration has discouraged competition and diversity when adequate supply not necessarily lower prices is the top goal. If the government is going to outsource vaccine manufacturing, it has to make the deal worthwhile for manufacturers. Otherwise it should do the job itself, which would cost more but at least guarantee proper supplies.
The bottom line is that the government (specifically the FDA; I'll see if I can find some dates) concentrated the manufacture of the vaccine for government programs with a few companies to artificially drive down the cost. So a couple of companies hold a stranglelock on the manufacture of the vaccine, simply because it's not competitive for other companies to get into the market. In other words, the government outsourced the manufacture of flu vaccine overseas to two primary labs.

It's got nothing to do with trial lawyers, and everything to do with corporate profits.

In other words, it's just business.