We have heard much about Mad Cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) lately.
Little of what we have heard comes close to truth about the spreading of mad
cow in America. Two major news shows, 20/20 and 60 Minutes, have covered this
issue in the last couple of weeks. 60 Minutes came a little closer to the
truth than 20/20.
I could not understand why the 20/20 segment was asking if we have Mad Cow in
America and the 60 Minutes segment stated we do not have any cases here yet
when we have known for some time that Mad Cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob) is
in this country. In fact the CDC came to Utah about three years ago to
investigate several deaths from Mad Cow that we had in one year – one was the
man featured in the 20/20 segment. Another of the deaths was a city official
whose death gained much public attention and generated several local news
stories on mad cow. Then while I was in Arizona in October I ran across an
article from a Tucson paper that discussed the wife of an attorney who died
of Mad Cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) in September, 2000. The
article stated that her death was the SECOND death from Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease in Tucson alone this year. Consider this information when we know
that France’s Mad Cow scare was generated by two mad cow deaths in one year
for the whole country. When you compare France’s cases of CJD against their
population base with Tucson’s two deaths in one city in one year and Utah’s
cases with a population base of only about 1 million you get some idea of the
magnitude of this problem in America.
Several months ago I sent you an article from the LA Times (still archived in
our e-group, entitled “A Wonder Drug That Carried the Seeds of Death”). The
article featured the high number of deaths among patients involved in a
National Institutes of Health study conducted in the early 80’s. They found
that 25% of the patients involved who received a growth hormone in this
project are now dying of Mad Cow disease. Now, in case you missed it last
month, the New York Times revealed that five drug companies have been using
material that may have been tainted with Mad Cow. The warnings and drugs
involved are listed in the articles below. Most patients are unaware of how
many animal products are contained in medications.
Isn’t it interesting that 20/20 nor 60 Minutes did not even hint at this
issue in their show on Mad Cow disease in America? Even our local ABC station
here went on after the 20/20 piece to assure us that we have safe meat in
Utah when it was the same station who ran a piece a couple of years ago on
the city official who died of Mad Cow.
Keep in mind as you read how remote they estimate the possiblity of
contracting Mad Cow from these drugs is, that they told patients who took
Fen-Phen and Redux that their possibility of contracting Primary Pulmonary
Hypertension was about the same. Those now suffering PPH would certainly tell
you that it was never worth the risk.
In light of this information I sure do hope you didn’t get your flu shot!
This whole Mad Cow issue is a lesson in how stupid it is to take an animal
that is strickly vegitarian and turn them into a canibal just because it will
make them grow faster and bring in the big $$$ faster. As the LA times
pointed out in an article in this past Sunday’s edition, quoting Dr. Neal
Barnard who heads the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, in
light of the wide numbers of diseases that come from eating animal products
it is time for us all to seriously consider vegitarianism. In light of the
following article he should also include avoiding medications.
Ann Blake-Tracy, Executive Director,
International Coalition For Drug Awareness
February 8, 2001 Single-Page Format
By MELODY PETERSEN and GREG WINTER
For the last eight years, the Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly
asked pharmaceutical companies not to use materials from cattle raised in
countries where there is a risk of mad cow disease.
But regulators discovered last year that five companies, including some of
the world’s largest drug concerns, were still using ingredients from those
countries to make nine widely used vaccines.
Some of the companies say that they found the F.D.A.’s request unclear and do
not believe they did anything wrong. Others say they could not keep up with
the government’s expanding list of countries where cattle could be infected.
One, however, acknowledged that it could have moved more quickly.
The nine vaccines include some regularly given to millions of American
children, including common vaccines to prevent polio, diphtheria and tetanus.
They also include the anthrax vaccine, which the government requires for
soldiers serving in the Persian Gulf.
Federal health officials stress that the vaccines are still considered safe.
They calculate that the odds of these vaccines passing on the disease, in the
worst eventualities, are between one in 40 million and one in 40 billion
The officials say that the very slight chance that someone could be infected
is far outweighed by the benefits that these vaccines bring in fighting
disease and preventing death. Indeed, it is now only a scientific theory that
a vaccine could infect someone with the human form of mad cow disease called
new variant Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease. No one is known to have contracted
the disease this way.
“Any risk is very remote,” said Dr. Karen Midthune, director of the F.D.A.’s
Office of Vaccine Research and Review. “But if we have the ability to bring
this remote risk to zero, that is something we want to do.”
Nonetheless, the fact that these suspect materials slipped into the nation’s
vaccine supply and that the F.D.A. did not discover it for seven years
raises questions about the agency’s ability to ensure that all medicines are
free of the infectious proteins that can cause mad cow disease.
The F.D.A. so far has only investigated the vaccine makers and has not looked
to see whether other medicine is free of possible mad cow contaminants. Some
experts say they worry more about dietary supplements. Unlike drugs,
supplements are largely unregulated. The F.D.A. is not even sure how many
supplement makers there are.
“It’s just insane not to have greater safeguards” for supplements, said Dr.
Paul W. Brown, chairman of the F.D.A.’s advisory committee on mad cow
disease. “The potential exists for abuse.”
All five vaccine makers, which include GlaxoSmithKline, Aventis and American
Home Products, have now agreed to stop using the suspect materials, which
include blood, fetal calf serum and meat broth.
But it will take a year or more to replace existing supplies with
reformulated products, because it can take many months to grow cultures used
in making vaccines. Both the companies and the F.D.A. say that the current
products are safe and should remain on pharmacy shelves.
They point out that the suspect ingredients, for the most part, are used only
in the early stages of manufacturing, when cultures are grown. Blood, for
instance, may be used to feed the bacteria and viruses in these cultures. The
cultures are then significantly diluted in the final vaccine.
February 8, 2001
The Vaccines in Question
An outside committee of health experts and federal regulators has reviewed
the risk of contracting the human equivalent of mad cow disease from several
vaccines and has concluded that the risk is remote and only theoretical. No
one is known to have been infected by a vaccine. The United States Public
Health Service said in December that all people should continue to be
vaccinated. The service said there was no need to select one vaccine over
The Food and Drug Administration calculates that at the worst the risk of
contracting the disease from one dose of a bacterial vaccine, such as a
vaccine to protect against tetanus, is one in 40 million.
And with viral vaccines, like the one against polio, the F.D.A. estimates
that the risk is far lower no more than one in 40 billion.
More information is available on the Web at www.fda .gov/cber/bse/bse.htm.
Here is the list of vaccines that use cattle materials from countries where
the government says there is a risk of mad cow disease:
ActHIB, sold by Aventis Pasteur, to prevent infection by the haemophilus
influenzae Type B bacterium.
OmniHIB, sold by GlaxoSmithKline, to protect against haemophilus influenzae
Infanrix, sold by Glaxo SmithKline, to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and
Havrix, sold by GlaxoSmithKline, to prevent hepatitis A.
Certiva, sold by North American Vaccine, now a unit of Baxter International,
to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Vaccines that use cattle materials of unknown geographic origin are:
IPOL, sold by Aventis Pasteur, to prevent polio.
Pnu-Imune 23, sold by American Home Products’ Lederle Laboratories, to
prevent pneumococcal diseases.
Anthrax vaccine, sold by BioPort.
Rabies vaccine, sold by BioPort.