The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced early this month that it was purchasing a $290 million supply of Nplate, a drug from Thousand Oaks-based Amgen approved to treat blood cell injuries that accompany acute radiation syndrome in adult and pediatric patients.
The purchase comes at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin has made repeated nuclear threats toward the West. The HHS said in a statement that the purchase was part of ongoing efforts to be better prepared to save lives following nuclear and radiological emergencies.
Amgen developed Nplate with support from a branch of the HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Nplate, a prescription drug, stimulates the body’s production of platelets in order to reduce radiation-induced bleeding.
The HHS branch, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, said it was using authority provided under the 2004 Project Bioshield Act and $290 million in Project BioShield funds for the purchase of Nplate.
The act was created to help incentivize private companies to develop medical countermeasures by providing them with multiyear funding for research, development, manufacturing and procurement. According to the HHS website, “Project BioShield funding is used to address national security threats as identified by the Department of Homeland Security’s Material Threat Determination process.”
The HHS said in a statement that its approach to the purchase “decreases life-cycle management costs for taxpayers because doses that near expiration can be rotated into the commercial market for rapid use prior to expiry and new doses can be added to the government supply.”
Despite the timing of the purchase, Chris Meekins, former deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, told NBC News that there was no cause for alarm.
“It isn’t that much product,” he told NBC News. “I would expect a bigger buy if this were in a response to something going on over there that requires them to both have enough for the U.S. and for giving to partners overseas.”
Amgen did not release a statement regarding the purchase of Nplate.