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Context of 'July 27, 2000: FDA Endorses Anthrax Antibiotic Cipro, Despite Conflict of Interest and Health Concerns'

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The FDA endorses the use of Bayer’s Cipro drug to prevent inhalation anthrax. (Reuters 7/28/2000) An official recommendation like this is highly unusual for the FDA. A 1997 Pentagon study of anthrax in rhesus monkeys showed that several other drugs were as effective as Cipro. The reason given for only recommending Cipro is the government wants a weapon against anthrax should it come up against a strain resistant to drugs in the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics. (Bumiller 10/21/2001) The pharmaceutical industry spent $177 million on lobbying in 1999 and 2000—more money than any other industry. The FDA has been accused of conflicts of interest with companies including Bayer. (Wayne and Petersen 11/4/2001)

The Canadian government overrides Bayer’s patent for the anthrax antibiotic Cipro and orders a million tablets of a generic version from another company. The US government says it is not considering a similar move. Patent lawyers and politicians state that adjusting Bayer’s patent to allow other companies to produce Cipro is perfectly legal and necessary. (Harmon and Pear 10/19/2001) The New York Times notes that the White House seems “so avidly to be siding with the rights of drug companies to make profits rather than with consumers worried about their access to the antibiotic Cipro,” and points out huge recent contributions by Bayer to Republicans. (Bumiller 10/21/2001)

The New York Times reports that health officials and experts believe numerous other drugs are as effective as the antibiotic Cipro in combating anthrax. “Several generic antibiotics, including doxycycline, a kind of tetracycline, and various penicillins, are also effective against the disease,” and they all are in plentiful supply. (Abelson and Pollack 10/23/2001) A 1997 Pentagon study of anthrax in rhesus monkeys showed the other drugs to be equally effective. But Cipro remains the only drug officially recommended by the FDA (see July 27, 2000). (Bumiller 10/21/2001)


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