09 April 2003 14:05 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--PowderJect Pharmaceuticals welcomed on Wednesday a report by the British National Audit Office (NAO) confirming there is no link between the awarding of a £32m ($50m/Euro47m) smallpox contract by the UK government and donations to the Labour Party by the UK vaccines company chief executive Paul Drayson.
The NAO reported that PowderJect won the contract because it was the only company that could supply the required vaccine in the required time-scales.
Following criticism over the government’s choice of vaccine strain, the NAO commented that the decision was based on expert scientific advice from the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
Further criteria included the UK’s experience of the Lister strain, which was widely used during the eradication of the disease in the UK, and the fact that the US is using a different strain, providing a backup.
Drayson made two £50 000 donations to the Labour party and controversy was raised after it was revealed that the second donation on 11 January coincided with the smallpox procurement exercise.
He said said: "We very much welcome the clarity the NAO’s independent report provides. The report establishes that my donations, made in a personal capacity, are not linked in any way to my business life."
"Indeed, it is clear that I was a donor well before the awful events of 11 September and the prospect of any smallpox vaccine contract," Drayson added.
In its report the NAO warned that the Department of Health should define its long-term strategy for ensuring adequate vaccine supplies as a complement to its short-term handling arrangements to deal with vaccine shortages. It said the Department could be challenged to ensure vaccine supplies as the number of suppliers diminishes and suppliers enjoy a near monopoly, resulting sometimes in increased prices.
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