One of the most politically-connected yet scandal ridden vaccine companies in the united states, with troubling ties to the 2001 anthrax attacks and opioid crisis, is set to profit handsomely from the current coronavirus crisis.
by Whitney Webb and Raul Diego
Part 12 - “Never let a good crisis go to waste”
Though Emergent Biosolutions has enjoyed its privileged status regarding the anthrax vaccine for over two decades, it has long since branched out and profiteered from a variety of pandemic scares, including Ebola and Zika, and public health crises both globally and domestically.
They have also acquired other vaccine monopolies, including the U.S.’ only licensed smallpox vaccine through their purchase of Sanofi, which came with a $425 million government contract and the promise of subsequent multi-year renewals on that contract for the ever-increasing national biodefense stockpiles.
Another drug monopoly acquired by Emergent Biosolutions has allowed them to profit handsomely off of the U.S.’ devastating opioid epidemic. In 2018, a year when the opioid crisis claimed the lives of nearly 70,000 Americans and was considered the top health crisis facing the nation, Emergent acquired the producer of Narcan, the only FDA-approved nasal spray of naloxone, which is used to treat opioid overdoses at the scene. At the time of acquisition, Emergent BioSolutions executive Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi referred to U.S. high schools and colleges as lucrative, “untapped markets” for Narcan.
Two months after Emergent completed its acquisition of the Narcan monopoly, HHS began recommending that doctors co-prescribe the drug alongside opioid painkillers. However, HHS offered no measures aimed at preventing the over-prescription of opioid painkillers like fentanyl and has remained silent regarding efforts to make opioid painkillers a controlled, schedule 1 substance.
After the HHS recommendation regarding Narcan, several states subsequently passed laws requiring doctors to co-prescribe the nasal spray. Emergent’s sale of Narcan, which now costs $150 per dose, predictably spiked.
Regarding its Narcan monopoly, Emergent has long claimed that they are working to keep the drug affordable and they have even donated Narcan to public libraries and YMCAs as part of a major public relations push. However, Emergent’s same-old aggressive tactics still apply to Narcan, as they have sued any competitors aiming to market a cheaper, generic version of the drug.
In addition, government promotion of Narcan as opposed to other, longer-term solutions to opioid addiction, have come under scrutiny, with some arguing that Narcan actually enables opioid addiction and may actually be worsening the crisis.