Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Death, Tamiflu, Donald Rumsfeld, Bird Flu and other Nonsense!

After writing about my skepticism of "bird flu" I was pointed to the link between Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defence and a company called Gilead Sciences.

Interestingly, Gilead is the company that owns and markets the Tamiflu drug (well, not exactly but it makes good copy). Gilead owns the rights to Tamiflu, Roche however makes and markets it. Nevertheless Gilead collects a handsome royalty on Tamiflu sales and at around 100 bucks a dose, you can only guess that the cronies that look after the coffers are smiling with unbridled glee at the moment. What is really interesting is that Donald Rumsfeld used to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gilead Sciences. He owns considerable stocks in the company.

Tamiflu is a neuraminidase inhibitor for the treatment and prevention of all common strains of influenza. Widely touted as the supposed silver bullet for the "bird flu". In actual fact the drug only decreases the amount of days you might be sick, it might (MIGHT) prevent you expiring if you by some bizzare freak of nature catch avian flu.

Contributing to the madness, Christchurch microbiologist Ben Harris says the H5N1 bird flu that has infected 115 people world-wide (ah-hem, you mean hospitalised Ben, there is no way of knowing how many people have been infected - it could be millions, it's well known avian flu immunity is high amongst bird factory workers in Asia) , killing 59, has all the hallmarks of a classic pandemic-strain influenza. Yeah right, it can't transmit between humans, sure this must be a hallmark of a pandemic. In fact it has no more characteristics of a human pandemic strain than any other avian, pig or animal flu has. And, given there are 6 and a half billion people on the planet your chance of being one of those 59 killed was 0.00000001% (Scary thought)

So, your actual chances of contracting avian flu in New Zealand are zero. You are more likely to die in a plane crash on the way to Asia than you are of actually catching avian flu in Asia. The irrationality of current frenzied panic about the supposed imminent pandemic are ludicrous. There is no pandemic and there is absolutely NO sign whatsoever that there is going to be a pandemic. If there is a pandemic it won't be avian flu, that strain doesn't transmit from human to human. Furthermore the science tells us that any mutation to a form that is easily transmittable from human to human will have the effect of reducing the virility of the virus. It may just turn out to be another flu virus. The kind that people catch every year. What chance is there of a pandemic - no one knows. Take a guess, buy a lotto ticket.

59 people have died of avian flu. Yet over 1 million die every year worldwide from malaria. AIDS kills almost 3 million people a year. Almost 500 people a year die on New Zealand roads. You have to question the whys and whats of this frenzy.

Being a natural skeptic I shun conspiracy theories. And this isn't one. I'd call it a fortuitous coincidence. But, it was certainly in Rumsfelds interest to encourage the bulk purchasing of a billion dollars worth of Tamiflu for the US Government. It's certainly in Gilead Science's interest to ensure the production and distribution of Tamiflu to god fearing folk around the world spooked by the new black death.

You have to ask yourself is the current media hype about avian flu a clever marketing exercise by Gilead? You can be damn sure they are making a killing. Governments all over the world have ordered billions of dollars worth of Tamiflu.

Rumsfeld must be laughing all the way to the bank. And you can too, as you can see from the yahoo quote page Gilead stocks are on the rise. Might be time to sell your Kentucky Fried Chicken shares. I can see you looking at the family budgie sideways...

For another perspective see Wendy Orent's discussion in the Washington Post.


Andy Soprano said...

Fascinating analysis, Steve. I look forward to your postings. Cheers!

Lou Minatti said...

Avian flu is a hoax designed to enrich Rumsfeld. The CDC and WHO are all in on this conspiracy. So are tens of thousands of scientists and doctors around the world. They want to see Rummy make that $1 million so badly that they have been keeping silent about The Greatest Hoax Ever.

Then bloggers such as yourself blew Rummy's cover. Drat!

Kathy said...

Quick note that I've linked back to you on this story:

Last week, the two companies involved in the production of Tamiflu -- touted as the globe's savior should there be an avian flu pandemic -- negotiated a new financial arrangement. Roche will now pay Gilead 14-22% of Tamiflu revenue, up from last year's 10%. The drug was a "lackluster" seller before pandemic fears, which reached new heights earlier this month when President Bush outlined a $7.1 billion pandemic response plan.

Robin Zebrowski said...

I hadn't actually heard about Rummy's interests in this one. I'm not surprised in the least, but I'm surprised more people haven't mentioned it.