Printer Friendly

Drugs firm stayed silent over its faulty vaccines.

Byline: BY ALAN WESTON

A DRUGS firm which employs around 600 people on Merseyside is embroiled in fresh controversy after revelations that it stayed silent over thousands of faulty vaccines.

PowderJect, run by multi-millionaire Labour donor and Government defence minister Lord Drayson, knew for nearly two years that nine batches of anti-TB jabs produced at its Liverpool factory had failed quality control checks.

But the Speke-based company - now known by the name of new owners Chiron - did not inform health regulators or the National Health Service, its main customer.

Senior Labour backbencher Ian Gibson said: "We need a public inquiry into this business. It doesn't smell as sweetly as it might."

But the Department of Health said a National Audit Office investigation had already concluded the Government had acted correctly.

An investigation for the BBC's Money Programme found that internal tests at the Liverpool vaccines plant revealed a problem with the vaccine's shelf life from 1989 onwards, 11 years before Lord Drayson bought the factory.

But when PowderJect took over in October 2000, the company remained silent about the failures and continued producing the BCG jab - at least one batch of which also failed internal tests.

The firm finally had its licence to produce the vaccine suspended after an inspection in July 2002 by the Medicines Control Agency, the Department of Health body that monitors the effectiveness of medicines.

The problems are detailed in a report from the Medicines Control Agency (now the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Since 1989, batches of BCG vaccine have been on a stability monitoring programme of which nine have had sub-potent results at one or more time points and had therefore failed to meet their end of shelf-life potency criteria," it said.

"There is no evidence that failing stability (potency) reports have been reported to the MCA."

The Department of Health has refused to say how many doses of the vaccine might have been affected. The MHPRA said that the average batch size was 100,000, meaning 900,000 individual doses may have been involved.

In Ireland 15,000 children inoculated with the under-strength PowderJect jabs were retested and 287, or 2%, revaccinated.

The Department of Health said that was not deemed necessary here.

"Revaccinating those who had already received the BCG vaccine could have increased the likelihood of adverse reactions in some patients."

The Speke plant has only recently returned to flu jab production after a contamination scare last year. It had its licence to manufacture the Fluvirin vaccine suspended by the MHRA for three months, after it was discovered 4m doses were contaminated with bacteria.

It is also ramping up the manufacture of treatment for a strain of bird flu for America to stockpile.

It was announced earlier this month that the plant is set to change hands again in a pounds 3bn merger with Swiss drugs giant Novartis.

Novartis already owns 42% of California-based Chiron. A deal for the outstanding 58% should be rubberstamped next year.

THE Money Programme is on BBC2 tonight, 10pm

CAPTION(S):

The Chiron factory in Speke
COPYRIGHT 2005 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 21, 2005
Words:518
Previous Article:Football: Angry Moyes 'embarrassed' by beating.
Next Article:Next 24 hours critical as Best fights for life.
Topics:


Related Articles
Drug firm hails 'amazing' vaccine as profits soar.
China likely to manufacture new flu vaccine by July.
China leads swine flu vaccine race.
China leads swine flu vaccine race.
China leads swine flu vaccine race.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters