News Release

Bioterrorism: Interviews Available

VICTOR SIDEL
Past president of the American Public Health Association, author of the recent article “Bioterrorism Preparedness: Cooptation of Public Health?” and co-editor of War and Public Health and the forthcoming Terrorism and Public Health, Sidel said today: “The bill adopted Thursday by the Senate is likely to divert funds from essential public health services. At a time when public health programs in the U.S. are being sharply reduced in many states, this bill will divert $4.6 billion to preparation for unsubstantiated threats. The U.S. would be better protected if it worked to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits use of biological weapons, rather than obstructing such efforts.”
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DIANA ZUCKERMAN
President of the National Center for Policy Research for Women and Families, Zuckerman said today: “The bioterrorism bill contains provisions that affect the FDA’s review of all new prescription drugs (which of course have nothing to do with bioterrorism). They were negotiated during secret meetings between the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry. The industry got what it wanted — an even faster drug approval process. Advocates for consumers and patients were totally excluded from the meetings. Several members of Congress added some safeguards for patients, but the law is still designed primarily to benefit industry, not consumers. This affects all of us. For example, more and more of us are taking medications for chronic health conditions — weight control, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression — but these medications have never been proven safe over the long term. The Enron scandal should have taught us that we need strong safeguards so that watchdogs like the FDA make sure that companies do the right thing…. If a company making medical products puts profits before consumers, people lose their lives.”
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SUSAN WRIGHT
Coauthor of Preventing a Biological Arms Race and the forthcoming Biological Warfare and Disarmament: Global Perspectives, Wright said today: “What Congress is seeking in this bill is a technical fix for the bioterrorism problem. And while it is reasonable to take precautionary measures, there should be no illusion that these can solve the problem in the long term, regardless of how much the U.S. is willing to spend. In the long run, the only solutions to the bioterrorism problem are political solutions. The problem of bioterrorism is intertwined with fundamental geopolitical problems, especially in the Middle East, where biological weaponry takes on its most intractable form. The stubborn fact is that as long as nuclear weapons are present in Israel, other states will be tempted to develop chemical and biological capacities… This in turn encourages dissemination of expertise in the region…. Clearly a second major challenge is to find a solution to the ongoing stand-off between Iraq and the UN Security Council over inspection of Iraq’s biological and chemical programs… Finally, it is essential that all of the parties to the Biological Weapons Convention work to strengthen this treaty. Unfortunately, the U.S. government is doing exactly the opposite — both by rejecting multilateral approaches to disarmament and by pursuing biological defense projects that can be seen as treaty violations.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167