U.S. spending $25M to add anthrax ‘antitoxin’ to emergency stockpile

April 24 (UPI) — U.S. health officials have announced plans to spend more than $25 million on an anthrax antitoxin, as part of an emergency preparedness plan.

The Health and Human Services Department said the antitoxin — called Anthim or obiltoxaximab — will be purchased from New Jersey-based Elusys Therapeutics and funded by Project BioShield.

“Protecting the American people from 21st century threats, such as anthrax, remains a high priority for the department,” Dr. Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said in a statement Monday. “This procurement under Project BioShield ensures we continue to have treatment options for people exposed to anthrax and increases the number of courses available in an emergency.”

The Project Bioshield Act, passed by Congress in 2004, is a program to fund purchases of medical countermeasures for biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear agents.

Health officials said the antitoxin complements existing antibiotics by neutralizing toxins produced by Anthrax, scientifically known as Bacillus anthracis.

The drug will be delivered to the Strategic National Stockpile, which is the nation’s largest supply of potentially life-saving medical countermeasures — designed to be used in case of a public health emergency.

In March 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Anthim for patients with the inhaled form of anthrax, which can be deadly.

Previous treatments have relied on antibiotics like ciprofloxicin to target anthrax, but scientists say they are not effective in treating toxins released by the bacteria.

Five people died and more than a dozen others were infected in the United States in 2001, during a series of mailed anthrax attacks.