Thursday, October 18, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 41



Cipro patented, limiting supply

Brandon Moeller 

I have taken Cipro before. And, no, it wasn't because I opened an envelope in the offices of The Daily Cougar that contained a strange white powder. A doctor prescribed it to me because I had an upper-respiratory infection that would not go away. A couple days' worth of doses later, the infection died.

Now the makers of Cipro, the registered trademarked name for the drug ciprofloxacin, are enjoying immense profits from American fear of the disease anthrax. People frightened out of their minds because it happened to news anchor Tom Brokaw and to Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S. D.) are rapidly stocking up on the drug.

The notes accompanying the two packages have been written in the same style ­ the hand-written letters resemble a child's frisky, loose sub-cap form ­ and most have praised Allah. Both letters have come from Trenton, N. J.

Meanwhile, the FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III, told the New York Times he did not believe "the anthrax outbreak was the attack warned of in intelligence information received last week."

Mr. Mueller says this isn't the big one when more than 20 people get sick from going to work at the nation's capital.

Did you know the scare has affected about 90 Planned Parenthood clinics nationwide? They too have received suspicious envelopes containing white, powdery substances. So far, it has been the work of copy-cat pranksters ­ letters from crazies claiming they are an "Army of God" and proclaiming "We will kill you all" -- but so far, they've been ruled to be cruel hoaxes, probably put on by right-wing extremists destined to burn in hell.

Planned Parenthood isn't the only target. In fact, the FBI claims 2,300 cases of suspected anthrax have been reported to them since Oct. 1.

Bayer A.G. recently announced it is tripling its production in light of recent anthrax mailings. In the last few days, the company has sold as much Cipro as it normally would in a month, and it is the only corporation that can sell the only anthrax treatment available.

But that's OK. That's the American way. Profit, it seems in modern American history, always has a higher priority than the potential personal safety of citizens.

If we lived in India, we could get ciprofloxacin for 1/20th the cost. What is the justification for drug makers to be able to patent a drug and thus exclusively reap the financial benefits from it, while simultaneously sticking it to consumers? They say it's because developing drugs costs money -- a lot of money. And they need that money to continue creating drugs.

There is a solution. An American law can overturn Bayer A.G.'s domestic control of ciprofloxacin. The law broadly states that any government official with purchasing power can ignore the drug patent and license another company to produce it, in the time of need.

The government is currently exploring this option in its goal of increasing the federal supply of the drug to last 60 days for 12 million people. This is needed as everyone freaks out and buys the drug, freezing supply.

Moeller, a junior communication major, 
can be reached at

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