In September 2001, one week after the 9/11 attacks, the United States was subjected to a series of frightening events known to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as Amerithrax. A number of letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news offices and the offices of two senators. 23 people were infected, of which five died.
Fast forward, in the last 12 years the United States has experienced a rapid escalation in the number of measures available to ensure security in the homeland, not the least of which was to be better prepared to prevent attacks like the Anthrax attacks of 2001.
Enter Richard J. Danzig, an advisor for both Presidents Clinton and Obama and consultant to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Danzig also performed the duties and responsibilities of director of Human Genome Sciences (HGS), Inc., where he helped the company win more than $334 million in federal contracts and he personally received over $1 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.
What were Danzig’s duties? Danzig was responsible for encouraging the government to stockpile large quantities of a drug to respond to the potential threat of a terrorist group developing an antibiotic-resistant form of anthrax.
“I feel that I’ve acted very properly with regard to this,” Danzig said in an interview.
Human Genome Sciences produced the drug raxibacumab and currently sells it exclusively to the United States Government for over $5K per dose. The company was purchased by none other than GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a company whose activities we have covered on multiple occasions, for $3.6 billion in 2012.
The effectiveness of raxibacumab, raxi for short, is uncertain. Human testing is prohibited with anthrax and as such, testing was only performed on animals. The likelihood that the drug will perform similarly in humans as it did in animals cannot be guaranteed. More than this, despite Danzig’s proselytizations that an antibiotic-resistant form of anthrax could be developed by a dissident group and the United States needed to be prepared against it, the drug that was tested, raxi, was not tested against an antibiotic-resistant form, says the LA Times.
Though, the effectiveness is wholly beside the point for these groups. Human Genome Sciences and its owner, GlaxoSmithKline, cashed in on the fear of the public and the desperation of the government once already. When the current stockpile of raxi has to be replaced, will the perceived threat justify the cost? GSK and HGS would certainly stand to benefit if it did.
Joshua is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.