Hey drug company assholes, stop killing sharks, OK?  »

What the hell. The pharmaceutical industry is so fucked up in so many ways. It’s bad enough they’re using factory-farmed chicken eggs to grow flu vaccines, now they had to go and make it extra fucked up by killing nearly endangered sharks.

Yes, you read that right, drug companies are buying squalene, an oil extracted from the livers of sharks, for use in flu vaccines. And the more threatened the shark species, the better. Deepwater sharks are the best squalene producers, but they also have the lowest reproductive rates. To catch them, deep-sea fishers use bottom trawling, a horribly destructive method that’s like running a bulldozer along the ocean floor, destroying everything in its path.

The purpose of squalene is to extend vaccine supplies. Squalene can be made into what’s called an adjuvant, which boosts the body’s immune system response. This allows vaccines to do their job more effectively, which means you can use less of the vaccine and stretch the supply you have.

The “good” news is that squalene has not been approved by the FDA for use in the U.S., but it’s currently on the market in Canada and Europe. However, our Department of Health and Human Services reserves the right to start using it in case of an emergency flu epidemic, like if H1N1 were to suddenly get all crazy-go-nuts. So it’s like a cloud with a silver lining, except the silver lining is made of dead shark livers instead of attractive, shiny silver.

Sharks can be real dicks, but they don’t deserve this. Especially when there are other ways to get squalene, like from high-quality plant oils. Some drug companies, to their credit, are working on replacements, but without strong legal protections for sea life, there’s not much incentive for them to try very hard as long as it’s profitable. But if killing sharks magically became illegal tomorrow, I’d bet my liver they’d have a replacement by the end of the week.

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