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Flu Panic and Profits

Monday, 03 November 2008 15:00
The media-generated fear of this year’s flu has sent a panicky public scrambling for flu shots. No one cares that the vaccine does not work, does not contain this year’s dreaded virus, and causes significant adverse reactions. People want their flu shot, and manufacturers have run out of supply.

That shortage has created a supply and demand environment for inflated prices and illegal price gouging. A vial of vaccine that cost $40 to $80 in October is now selling for up to $215 dollars. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the sales manager for CT International, which is selling vaccine vials for $215, justified these prices because the market is willing to pay. Missouri’s attorney general has promised not to allow illegal price gouging, quoting an anti-gouging law that prevents extraordinary profits from extreme, temporary conditions. Expect other states to follow suit. Just another example of outrageously high drug prices foisted on a public unaware of other, safer alternatives.

On average 38,000 people in the US die each year from influenza. Deaths occur primarily in the elderly. Every year newspapers predict a terrible flu season. Drug ads appear on television for useless concoctions with fancy names like Theraflu.

Learned scientific articles appear in the media characterizing the offending virus as a mass murderer probably able to surpass all those other foreign viruses (Spanish, Asian, and Hong Kong) in deadly combat with our immune systems. This year it is a mutant strain of the Panama virus first identified by Chinese scientists in the Fujian province in 2002. The San Francisco Chronicle informed us this week that researchers have found flu viruses in humans from three bird flu strains, which portends another global influenza pandemic similar to the Spanish flu of 1918 or the Hong Kong flu of 1968. Such speculation sells newspapers, and flu vaccines.

Randall Neustaedter OMD is the author of The Vaccine Guide. His book can be ordered in the ICPA website.

Randall Neustaedter, OMD