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Push For Experimental Smallpox Drug Contract By Obama Administration Raises Questions, L.A. Times Reports

“Over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433 million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “Senior officials have taken unusual steps to secure the contract for New York-based Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald Perelman, one of the world’s richest men and a longtime Democratic Party donor,” including “replacing the government’s lead negotiator for the deal” and “block[ing] other firms from competing,” the newspaper adds.

“Thomas Mack, an epidemiologist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, … called the plan to stockpile Siga’s drug ‘a waste of time and a waste of money,'” but the “Obama administration official who has overseen the buying of Siga’s drug says she is trying to strengthen the nation’s preparedness,” citing a 2004 finding by the Bush administration that there was a ‘material threat’ smallpox could be used as a biological weapon,” the newspaper writes. “There is no credible evidence that any other country or a terrorist group possesses smallpox,” the newspaper notes, adding, “If there were an attack, the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire U.S. population and quickly treat people exposed to the virus” (Willman, 11/13).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.