Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What An Odd Coincidence

Gilead, the wingnut world of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, is also the name of a company which owns the rights to Tamiflu. Tamiflu may be one of the only treatments for any avian flu pandemic; may be, because the virus could mutate into a form that is not amenable to Tamiflu. But right now many people are hoarding the medication, in the hope that they are safe from dying when/if the pandemic strikes. This hoarding causes shortages for those people who get the run-of-the-mill flu this winter.

But it has also raised the value of Gilead stock. Donald Rumsfeld owns lots of this stock:

Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.

Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.

Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

Interesting, and it puts Rumsfeld into a tricky (though affluent) situation:

What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.

Just coincidences, and Rumsfeld has done nothing wrong here. But it's odd to see the other side of a possible global health crisis. Someone will benefit from it.
Link from smalfish