Germany's Bayer to raise production of anthrax antibiotic after surge in U.S. demand

Wednesday, October 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BERLIN (AP) _ Germany's biggest drug maker said Wednesday it will increase production of its Cipro anthrax treatment to meet surging U.S. demand after a death from the rare illness has fed fears terrorists could spread the disease.

``A lot of people are asking for it at the drugstore,'' said Christian Sehnert, a spokeswoman for Bayer AG. Stocks at U.S. wholesalers were running down quickly, she added.

The U.S. government asked Bayer to apply for permission to sell the antibiotic Cipro, its top-selling drug, as an anthrax treatment in the United States in 1999, Sehnert said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug, which requires a doctor's prescription, in August last year.

Bayer will increase output 25 percent from Nov. 1 by reopening a mothballed production plant in Germany.

She declined to say whether Cipro has been sold to the military in the United States, where the only manufacturer of a vaccine against the disease, Bioport Corp., has been unable to meet FDA requirements.

In Florida, hundreds of people were waiting for test results to learn whether they were exposed to anthrax at the Boca Raton headquarters of a publisher where the 63-year-old man who died from the disease worked.

Investigators are trying to determine the source of the anthrax, which can be used as a biological weapon. No link with terrorism has been established.

Anthrax produces a toxin that damages the respiratory system and brain, killing untreated patients within days. Treatment with antibiotics is often successful if the infection is caught in time.

Higher demand for Cipro is a boost for the Leverkusen-based drug and chemical maker, reeling from the withdrawal worldwide of its Baycol anti-cholesterol treatment in August after it was linked to more than 50 deaths.