HHS adds new anthrax drug to national stockpile

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Jul 31, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – The US government announced Jul 28 that it will add 10,000 courses of anthrax immune globulin (AIG) to the strategic national stockpile.

In a press release Jul 28, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said it awarded a $143,833,719 contract to Cangene, based in Winnipeg, Man. Deliveries of AIG, used to prevent or treat inhalational anthrax cause by Bacillus anthracis, to the stockpile are expected to begin in 2007. Full payment to Cangene hinges on the product being approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA); however, the contract permits delivery of the product before FDA approval in an emergency.

The HHS had previously awarded Cangene and another company, Human Genome Sciences, Inc., of Rockville, Md., contracts to test two experimental anthrax drugs.

"Our first line of defense against anthrax is antibiotics," said HHS assistant secretary for public health emergency preparedness Craig Vanderwagen, MD. "While additional studies are underway to determine its efficacy and ultimate role in treatment, AIG may have the potential to provide physicians with a source of human antibodies against the anthrax toxin that could improve the management of patients with the life-threatening toxemia associated with severe anthrax."

Toxins produced by the anthrax bacteria are believed to be a major cause of mortality in infected patients. The HHS says AIG is a potentially promising addition to the options physicians have to prevent and treat anthrax infections.

B anthracis is classified as a category A bioweapon. Anthrax spores sent through the US mail in the fall of 2001 caused 22 cases of anthrax,11 cutaneous and 11 inhalational. Five patients with the latter form died. The source of the anthrax has never been identified.

See also:

Jul 28 HHS press release on adding AIG to the national stockpile
http://archive.hhs.gov/news/press/2006pres/20060728.html

Oct 6, 2005 CIDRAP News article "HHS to buy two anthrax drugs for testing"

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