US Snaps Up Huge Stockpile of Smallpox Drug
Experts question need for $463M anti-bioterror buy
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 13, 2013 4:04 AM CDT
Smallpox killed millions of people a year before it was eradicated with vaccination campaigns.   (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

(Newser) – More than 30 years after the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated, the federal government has spent $463 million on enough medicine to treat two million cases. The only stocks of the smallpox virus known to still exist are in heavily guarded labs in Atlanta and Moscow, but experts won't rule out the existence of renegade stocks or the possibility of the once-feared killer being genetically engineered back into existence, the New York Times reports.

The huge federal order will be a bonanza for Siga Technologies, a small biotech firm that created the new smallpox medicine, but some experts say the government is buying way too much—especially since it already has a stockpile of 300 million doses of smallpox vaccine. "Is it appropriate to stockpile it? Absolutely,” a bioweapons expert at Rutgers University says. “Is it appropriate to stockpile two million doses? Absolutely not. Twenty thousand seems like the right number.”

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Showing 3 of 34 comments
Mar 18, 2013 9:03 PM CDT
Many millions lives in US big cities, and we need to vaccinate millions in a few days if an outbreak happened God forbid, horrifying disfiguring disease can be prevented with the prompt action of good trained citizens and volunteers using PODs... We nee more than the 2 millions dose in my opinion, it is a small price to pay , Although we came a long way, we should not let our guards down and must keep piling important drugs and vaccines forever... No need to elaborate or name any...loose lips sink ships.enough said.
Mar 18, 2013 9:37 AM CDT
We need this, as the stuff is hard to come by. If SP makes a comeback, this will be the smartest investment in American History.
Mar 13, 2013 12:47 PM CDT
"Is it appropriate to stockpile it? Absolutely,” a bioweapons expert at Rutgers University says. “Is it appropriate to stockpile two million doses? Absolutely not. Twenty thousand seems like the right number.” While not mentioned in the Newser synopsis, the Rutgers University "expert" is Dr. Richard H. Ebright. He is also an arrogant, pompous ass. Where does he get off saying that purchasing and stockpiling 2 million doses of a treatment for one of the most horrific diseases to plague humanity is "too much"? Furthermore, what method or calculation did he use, in his capacity as an "expert", to determine that twenty thousand doses, only 1% of what was purchased, is the "right number". Dr. Ebright's comment seems especially idiotic when one considers that while naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated in the 1980's by a worldwide vaccination effort, those vaccines have worn off, leaving those who received them with ever decreasing natural immunity. Were smallpox to be released in a major US metropolitan area today, those exposed would stand a good chance of not contracting the disease if they receive a vaccination within 3 days of exposure. After that, the only viable alternative would be the treatment courses the government just purchased for stockpiling. Of course, that implies that the authorities would KNOW that smallpox was released in the first place, a very unlikely scenario until people started getting sick. Smallpox incubates from 7 - 17 days before any symptoms appear, after which it becomes increasingly contagious, and since any smallpox release would more than likely be weaponized, it's contagious properties and virility would be greatly enhanced.. That means that Dr. Ebright, in his "expert" opinion, believes that should such an attack and release occur, there are only twenty thousand people in ANY American city who should be allowed a chance to survive. Would Dr. Ebright be the one making such a decision? (A little aside: I learned a long time ago exactly what an "expert" is by breaking the word down to it's components. "X" is an unknown in mathematics. "Spurt" is a drip of water under pressure. That means an "expert" is an unknown drip under pressure.)