Report: Big profits spur questions about Siga's $433M drug contract

The Los Angeles Times today takes a close look at the $433 million government contract Siga Technologies won for its experimental smallpox drug, raising questions about the generous payout for a treatment that has never proved its efficacy.

The Times' investigative story links one of Siga's biggest shareholders, billionaire Ronald Perelman, with the deal, noting that he has been a generous contributor to Democratic candidates. And it dug up documents showing that senior officials in the Obama administration replaced its lead negotiator after its original deal-maker balked at Siga's demand to be paid $255 a dose.

The U.S. has a smallpox vaccine in the national stockpile which cost $3 a dose. But ST-246 is intended to add an additional layer of security, offering a treatment for people who have been diagnosed too late for the vaccine.

"We've got a vaccine that I hope we never have to use--how much more do we need?" said noted epidemiologist Dr. Donald "D.A." Henderson. USC's Dr. Thomas Mack called it a "waste of time and a waste of money."

Dr. Nicole Lurie, who heads biodefense planning in the White House, replaced the key negotiator, who had objected to a contract that handed Siga a 180% profit margin. But Lurie insists the no-bid contract was issued on merit alone.

- here's the article from The LA Times