WASHINGTON: The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America (PhRMA) has been enlisted in the war against bioterrorism,
creating a special task force that will work with the government and
communicate to the public what the industry is doing to protect the the
health of Americans.
The Task Force on Emergency Preparedness includes such heavy hitters as
Bayer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, GlaxoSmith-Kline,
Executives from these companies have already met twice with Secretary of
Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, and have held one meeting with
Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. PhRMA held a
press conference after the first meeting with Thompson to outline the
formal assistance it was giving to the Bush administration.
The team disclosed that it was preparing initiatives to protect the
nation from the threats of anthrax and smallpox. It offered free
medicines to anyone exposed to anthrax, said it would develop a smallpox
vaccine, and offered the use of industry scientists and research
laboratories to fight bioterrorism.
The task force is broken into two separate groups: pharmacy CEOs, who
will meet with members of Congress and will also be available to speak
with the press, and a group of research scientists who will be working
with researchers from the CDC and the NIH. They will be available to
speak with reporters to explain technical issues.
The communications team at PhRMA has been inundated with calls from the
media, which needs help understanding how anthrax works.
Dr. Michael Friedman, former head of the FDA, will lead the industry
initiative as chief medical officer for biomedical preparedness. He will
also act as the group's spokesperson, appearing at press conferences and
on TV news programs.
"He bridges all areas," said Jackie Cottrell, deputy VP of public
affairs for PhRMA. "Dr. Friedman has experience speaking with consumers,
and he also knows how to explain what we're doing as an industry to make
contributions to the war on terror."
The industry has also been proactive about putting out releases to make
the public aware of its efforts to assist the government. Thirteen
companies have put out releases on various initiatives that they will
implement to help fight terrorism.