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Critical Condition

NRO’s health-care blog.

Tommy Thompson and the Saga of Cipro



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Tommy Thompson announced yesterday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate against the ineffable Russ Feingold. For all the applause that Thompson receives from our side of the political spectrum, let us not forget his actual performance while HHS Secretary — to pick one example in particular, his machinations in the wake of the anthrax panic on Capitol Hill in the weeks after the 9/11 attacks. At the request of the Centers for Disease Control, Bayer, the developer/patent owner of Cipro (ciprofloxacin, the antibiotic most effective against anthrax), secured a label indication for anthrax. It did so at its own expense. Bayer then donated 4 million doses to the government, which sought to purchase another 1 million doses at a discount price. When Bayer balked at this discount, HHS — that is, Tommy Thompson — threatened Bayer’s patent, forcing Bayer to sell at a quarter of market price for the drug. Naturally, all the pharmacy chains, insurance companies, and other government agencies demanded that price as well. And Bayer received no liability protection for the Cipro supplied in the context of the anthrax panic, a nice little gift for the plaintiff attorneys. No good Bayer deed went unpunished.

And so let us bear firmly in mind this central fact: This government theft was orchestrated by those champions of capitalism, free enterprise, and free markets, the Republicans of the Bush administration in general and Tommy Thompson in particular. And people ask why there is cynicism about Republicans even in the context of the mad Obama/Democrat dash toward corporatism. Looking forward to the many hard decisions that will have to be made sooner rather than later, would the Thompsons of the political world actually display some backbone when the going gets rough? I rather doubt it. That he has decided not to run for the Senate can elicit only one honest reaction: good riddance. Let someone younger and far more principled emerge.

Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.



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