Debunking More B.S.

Apparently, there is an email going around regarding the flu vaccine shortage that attempts to pin the shortage not-so-indirectly on VP candidate John Edwards. The body of the email is as follows (via

Why the shortage: Almost half of the nation's flu vaccine will not be delivered this year. Chiron, a major manufacturer of flu vaccine, will not be distributing any influenza vaccine this flu season. Chiron was to make 46-48 million doses of vaccine for the United States. Chiron is a British company. Recently British health officials stopped Chiron from distributing and making the vaccine when inspectors found unsanitary conditions in the labs. Some lots of the vaccine were recalled and destroyed. Why is our vaccine made in the UK and not the US? The major pharmaceutical companies in the US provided almost 90% of the nations flu vaccine at one time. They did this despite a very low profit margin for the product. Basically, they were doing us a favor. In the late 80's a man from North Carolina who had received the vaccine got the flu. The strain he caught was one of the strains in that years vaccine made by a US company. What did he do? He sued and he won. He was awarded almost $5 million! After that case was appealed and the appeal was lost, most US pharmaceutical companies stopped making the vaccine. The liability outweighed the profit margin. Since UK and Canadian laws prohibit such frivolous law suits, UK and Canadian companies began selling the vaccine in the US. By the way...the lawyer that represented the man in the flu shot law suit was a young ambulance chaser by the name of John Edwards.

Snopes responds:
Two major problems with this political screed, which attempts to attribute a shortage of flu vaccine to a lawsuit handled to Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate:
  • Chiron,
    the corporation mentioned in this piece as an example of a "British company" that has taken over the manufacture of flu vaccine from American companies supposedly driven out of business by liability lawsuits, is not a British company. It is an American company headquartered in Emeryville, California, which last year purchased British vaccine maker Powderject and a flu vaccine plant in Liverpool, England.
  • American manufacturers did not produce flu vaccine until liability lawsuits made it impossible for them to continue doing so. Most American pharmaceutical companies got out of the flu vaccine market because a variety of factors (not related to lawsuits) make it an unattractive line of business...

Snopes has more detail about the specifics of why flu vaccine manufacturing is an unattractive line of business., including a specific case study on Wyeth. Regarding Edwards, Snopes adds:
Regarding the claim that John Edwards secured a $5 million judgment against a U.S. pharmacutical company on a flu vaccine case, while it is true he had a highly successful legal career representing individuals who had been badly harmed by malfunctioning products or the mistakes of doctors and hospitals, with some even saying he won $175 million for his clients over 12 years, at this point it's not known if he ever litigated a flu vaccine case, or if so, what the outcome of such a trial was.

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