House Energy and Commerce Committee examining smallpox contract

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is examining a $433 million sole-source contract given to the makers of an experimental smallpox drug by the Obama Administration.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Michigan) and three of his Republican colleagues requested documents from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius related to the contract given to Siga Technologies, Inc. Siga’s controlling shareholder is Ronald O. Perelman, a longtime Democratic party donor, according to the L.A. Times.

The letter to Sebelius focuses in part on the role played by Dr. Nicole Lurie, a presidential appointee, who heads biodefense planning under Sebelius. The letter requests that records on discussions Lurie had regarding procurement, or about smallpox in general, be turned over.

Additionally, the letter asks for all information, including documentation and communications, that discuss how the contract would eventually be valued at $433 million.

The committee leaders cited a December 24, 2008, letter from two senior George W. Bush administration officials to the Office of Management and Budget that estimated it would cost $215 million to purchase a smallpox antiviral.

Lurie said that the contract was awarded solely based on merit.

Under the terms of the contract, Siga is to supply 1.7 million treatment courses to the Strategic National Stockpile over five years. The drug, called ST-246, can be used to treat people already diagnosed with the infection who are too late to be helped with the smallpox vaccine.