Thursday, October 18, 2012

The guilty won't hang for the meningitis outbreak.

by Richard Mellor

I have often commented on what are reported in the mass media as "natural" disasters or "acts of god".  In my small way, I feel the need to correct them, counter their lies, conscious lies.  Katrina, the BP spill, were not natural disasters or acts of god, they were market induced disasters. They are the results of their precious market at work.  The destruction that takes place in developing countries or the Third World after an earthquake hits is also market induced because capitalism has been unable and unwilling to develop the infrastructure of these societies.

Now in the US we have another blatant market induced crisis that is killing people-----an outbreak of Meningitis. Meningitis is the inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. It is extremely painful and life threatening. As of today, 20 people have died of it and 257 infected according to reports from US health officials.

Investigations confirmed today that the outbreak came from shots, contaminated steroid injections made by the New England Compounding Center.  These are small drug compounding pharmacies that mix certain drugs for people that might be allergic to a compound in the regular prescription for example.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the week that the New England Compounding Center has exposed as many as 14,000 people to fungal meningitis.

According to reports in the media, in 1996, David Kessler, a commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration informed the US Congress about the dangers of allowing these small pharmacies to operate what he called a "shadow industry" and warned that the concoctions they mixed that were not regulated in the same way that drug manufacturers are "could result in serious adverse effects, including death."

The compound pharmacies began to grow in the nineties mixing all sorts of drug combinations that are not subject to the strict "sterility standards set by the FDA" that manufactured drugs are required to meet before the agency will approve them for the market. After Kessler's warning and call for tighter control over this industry in 1996, Congress passed a law in 1997 that authorized the FDA to treat the Compounding Industry more like drug manufacturers. Then in 2001, four people died and hundreds were exposed after receiving back pain shots "tainted with meningitis" the WSJ reports. The doctor in charge of one of the pharmacies that dispensed the toxic mix lost his license after the FDA discovered conditions that were not sterile.

But after that, and with the backing of the International Academy of Compounding Pharmacists, seven pharmacies filed a lawsuit to restrict the FDA's regulatory interference on the grounds that the provision in the regulation on advertising violated the First Amendment.  Amazing how corporations get the same right under the constitution as individuals isn't it. The US Supreme Court agreed and repealed the 1997 law. 

The Wall Street Journal reports that the legislators tried for years to impose stricter controls on these operations but a "Countereffort by the industry and a series of court decision beat that back.".   That tells you whose influence the legislators are under.  But there's more. Between 2001 and the present, the International Academy of Compounding Scientists spent $1.1 million on lobbying, or more accurately bribing politicians to beat back interference in their profit making venture.

The IACP boasted to its members how it successfully defeated a bipartisan bill that would have given the FDA more regulatory power over the industry.  That's a shame, there might be 20 people living today were that effort not successful. 

A 2007 bill that would have given the FDA the power to inspect retail pharmacies that made or dispensed compound medication got nowhere. "Members from 30 companies made 285 visits to congressional offices and warned that tighter regulation would put their industry 'in jeopardy' " the WSJ reports.

So what happened here was that the industry bribed the politicians, threatened cajoled and blackmailed them in to putting the general public at risk.  Big business controls the two parties and the politicians in them and demanded that the interest of industry, of profits, came before human life.

Compared to the other market driven catastrophes, the BP spill, Katrina, Fukishima or foreign wars actually that are all market driven, the meningitis outbreak is small potatoes.  Not for the families of the deceased though I would assume.

What terrifying threats did legislators, grown men and women receive from these 285 bribers?  They probably threatened very little but promised money and favors for their capitulation. They promised them another term next election cycle---they simply called in the chips.

  • Ban all lobbying
  • For public ownership of the pharmaceutical industry
  • For public ownership of the health care industry, take profit out of health care

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