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HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson and Mr. Helge H. Wehmeier, president and CEO of the Bayer Corporation, today announced agreement for a significant new federal purchase of the antibiotic ciprofloxacin (trademarked Cipro) at a substantially lowered price. The antibiotic is expected to be available by year end. Supplementing existing emergency stockpiles, it would be available for use in the event of a bioterror event.
Under the terms of the agreement valued at $95 million, HHS will pay 95 cents per tablet for a total initial order of 100 million tablets. This compares with a previously discounted price of $1.77 per tablet paid by the federal government. Bayer said it will rotate the government's inventory, as part of this agreement, to assure the American public a continuously fresh supply of Cipro. This inventory rotation adds an additional value of 30 percent for the government, which is included in the agreement.
Funds for the purchase are included in the $1.6 billion emergency proposal made by President Bush Oct. 17, which awaits Congressional action. HHS is also carrying out substantial new purchases of other antibiotics that are effective against anthrax, especially doxycycline.
The purchases will fulfill Secretary Thompson's proposal to quickly increase the nation's emergency reserve of antibiotics. Resources to be on hand by January would treat up to 12 million persons immediately for anthrax exposure. Treatment would be with a mixture of effective antibiotic products, with Cipro representing about 10 percent of the antibiotics on reserve. Currently, 18.6 million Cipro doses are available in the nation's emergency reserve, which would enable immediate treatment of about 2 million persons in combination with other antibiotics.
"This agreement means that a much larger supply of this important pharmaceutical product will be available if needed," Secretary Thompson said. "The beneficial price also means that we can have more funds available to assist state and local health responders to be ready for all eventualities. I commend the Bayer Corporation for its ongoing efforts to ensure a fully adequate supply of this valuable product."
"Bayer is fully committed to supplying America in its war on bioterrorism. This agreement between Bayer and the Department of Health and Human Services is an important security measure that will enable the nation to have in its stockpile ample supplies of Cipro to combat the threat of anthrax," said Bayer president Wehmeier. "Cipro has become standard for anthrax treatment. The men and women of Bayer are 100 percent committed to delivering this vital antibiotic to the U.S. government on schedule."
Secretary Thompson said current supplies of Cipro and other antibiotics which are effective against anthrax "are entirely adequate to meet the current need. This purchase is aimed at expanding our emergency stand-by capacity, to make us even better prepared for the possibility of massive exposure to anthrax or other biological agents."
As a further contingency, the agreement provides for the option of a second order of 100 million tablets at 85 cents, and a third order at 75 cents, if it is determined that further orders are needed.
Cipro is one of many antibiotics that have been found effective in the treatment of exposure to anthrax in the incidents in recent weeks. Current treatment practice for anthrax exposure, including those possibly exposed to anthrax, is a 60-day course, involving initial use of a broad spectrum antibiotic like Cipro, for five days, followed by determination of other antibiotics to which the pathogen is susceptible.
The Cipro to be purchased would be used to expand emergency stand-by supplies in the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile (NPS), maintained by HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The NPS includes both vendor managed inventory and 50-ton "Push Packages," designed to be able to reach any point in the continental United States within 12 hours. The current eight "Push Packages" are to be expanded to 12, under the President's proposals.
"It's important to remember that other antibiotics maintained as part of the national emergency reserve have been found to work against the strains of anthrax that have been used in the attacks in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.," Secretary Thompson said
Secretary Thompson told a House of Representatives committee yesterday that CDC would be aggressive in recommending preventive treatment for anyone with a likelihood of having been exposed to anthrax. However, he also cautioned Americans again against taking antibiotics when they do not have the likelihood of exposure to anthrax.
"Widespread, unnecessary use of antibiotics can only do harm," Secretary Thompson said. "Antibiotics can have side effects, including a few serious side effects in the case of the more powerful products. Furthermore, antibiotics can become less effective against disease if they are used inappropriately. These are important and powerful health products that need to be prescribed by a physician."
He called on physicians in particular to follow recommendations of the Public Health Service, the American Medical Association and other major medical authorities on use of antibiotics, and to explain the situation to patients inappropriately seeking antibiotic prescriptions.
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