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Homeland Security provision
Making it safe for drug profits

By Nicole Colson | December 13, 2002 | Page 2

TUCKED AWAY in the Homeland Security Act that George W. Bush recently signed into law was a provision that had little to do with protecting the "homeland"--and everything to do with protecting the profits of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

Thousands of parents believe that mercury in thimerosal--a preservative used in vaccines and developed by Lilly--is responsible for causing autism and other neurological disorders in their children. But thanks to a provision in the Homeland Security Act, thousands of pending cases against the drug giant may be dismissed. The Lilly rider extends a rule that protects vaccine manufacturers from direct lawsuits, so that now the exemption applies to manufacturers of ingredients like thimerosal.

No politician has copped to aiding Lilly, but it's not hard to see why the company might feel entitled to a favor. In 2002, the company gave more money to political candidates--$1.6 million--than any other pharmaceutical company, with 79 percent of it going to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The first president Bush sat on the Lilly board in the 1970s. White House budget director Mitchell Daniels Jr. is a former Lilly executive, and company chair and chief executive Sidney Taurel was appointed in June by Bush to serve on a presidential council to advise on domestic security issues.

"To me, it looks like payback for the fact that the industry spent millions bankrolling Republican campaigns," Andrew Water, a Dallas lawyer, told the Washington Post.

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