Report condemns swine flu experts' ties to big pharma

Trio of scientists who urged stockpiling had previously been paid, says report




* Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor
* The Guardian, Friday 4 June 2010

Scientists who drew up the key World Health Organisation guidelines advising governments to stockpile drugs in the event of a flu pandemic had previously been paid by drug companies which stood to profit, according to a report out today.

An investigation by the British Medical Journal and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the not-for-profit reporting unit, shows that WHO guidance issued in 2004 was authored by three scientists who had previously received payment for other work from Roche, which makes Tamiflu, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), manufacturer of Relenza.

City analysts say that pharmaceutical companies banked more than $7bn (£4.8bn) as governments stockpiled drugs. The issue of transparency has risen to the forefront of public health debate after dramatic predictions last year about a swine flu pandemic did not come true.

Some countries, notably Poland, declined to join the panic-buying of vaccines and antivirals triggered when the WHO declared the swine flu outbreak a pandemic a year ago this week. The UK, which warned that 65,000 could die as a result of the virus, spent an estimated £1bn stockpiling drugs and vaccines; officials are now attempting to unpick expensive drug contracts.

The cabinet office has launched an inquiry into the cost to the taxpayer of the panic-buying of drugs.

Today, the Council of Europe, produces a damning report into how a lack of openness around "decision making" has bedevilled planning for pandemics.

"The tentacles of drug company influence are in all levels in the decision-making process," said Paul Flynn, the Labour MP who sits on the council's health committee. "It must be right that the WHO is transparent because there has been distortion of priorities of public health services all over Europe, waste of huge sums of public money and provocation of unjustified fear."

Although the experts consulted made no secret of industry ties in other settings, declaring them in research papers and at universities, the WHO itself did not publicly disclose any of these in its seminal 2004 guidance. In its note, the WHO advised: "Countries that are considering the use of antivirals as part of their pandemic response will need to stockpile in advance."

Many nations would adopt this guidance, including Britain. In 2005, the government said it had begun bulk-buying the drug Tamiflu, initially ordering 14.6m doses after bird flu killed 40 in Asia.

The specific guidance on antivirals was written by Professor Fred Hayden. He has confirmed in an email that he was being paid by Roche for lectures and consultancy work at the time the guidance was produced and published. He received payments from GSK for consultancy and lecturing until 2002. He said "[declaration of interest] forms were filled out for the 2002 consultation".

The previous year Hayden was also one of the main authors of a Roche-sponsored study that asserted what was to become a main Tamiflu selling point – its claim of a 60% reduction in flu hospitalisations.

Dr Arnold Monto was the author of the WHO annex dealing with vaccine usage in pandemics. Between 2000 and 2004, and at the time of writing the annex, Monto had openly declared consultancy fees and research support from Roche and GSK. No conflict of interest statement was included in the annex published by the WHO.

When asked if he had signed a declaration of interest form for WHO, Dr Monto said "conflict of interest forms are requested before participation in any WHO meeting".

The third scientist, Professor Karl Nicholson, is credited with the WHO's influential work Pandemic Influenza. According to declarations he made in the BMJ and Lancet in 2003, he had received sponsorship from GSK and Roche.

Even though the previous year these declarations had been openly made, no conflict of interest statement was included in the annex. Nicholson said he last had "financial relations" with Roche in 2001.

When asked if he had signed a declaration of interest form for WHO, he replied: "The WHO does require attendees of meetings, such as those held in 2002 and 2004, to complete declarations of interest."

A WHO official told the BMJ it had to balance an individual's privacy with the robustness of guidelines, which were subject to a wide external review process.

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Replies to This Discussion

Report: WHO overstated H1N1 threat ,
http://www.youtube.com/v/Md6xNVVteC0



A joint report into the handling of the H1N1 outbreak has found that some scientists who advised governments to stockpile drugs, had previously been on the payroll of big drug companies.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal, found World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the use of medicine to treat the virus were prepared by experts who had received consulting fees from the top two manufacturers of the drugs - Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

The WHO's decision to name the flu a "pandemic" is also coming under scrutiny from European investigators, and stands accused of exaggerating the dangers of the H1N1 outbreak, which emerged in April last year.

Laboratory tests have confirmed more than 18,000 deaths from H1N1 infection, according to WHO figures, but the virus has turned out to be less deadly than feared.

Also, symptoms suffered by most people infected with the virus have been mild.

Now why am I not surprised?
Worldwide scumbags are getting it together to steal from and exterminate innocent folks.
Normal service then eeh!!
@ all

Is it not time to... maybe
"Shoe the WHO",
like maybe a good swift kick in the ass with a heavy SS Jack boot.

Maybe its time to retire all the BIG HEADS and let some of the young Dr, Malone's* take over.

Me things that was a great TV series back in the 19??, I forget.

Larry

Larry
WHO scandal exposed: Advisors received kickbacks from H1N1 vaccine ...
Mike Adams | Anything you're likely to hear from the World Health Organization originates with a profit motive rather than a commitment to public health.
Swine ’flu and Big Pharma: why is there no scandal?

When it emerged that a billion pounds had been wasted in this outrageous boondoggle, no one apologised. Now we learn that some of the scientists who drew up the guidelines had been in the pay of the pharmaceutical corporations that stood to gain from the stockpiling.

This revelation has received less than a thousandth of the media coverage that attended the original “epidemic”. Why is there not more sense of scandal? Are health correspondents embarrassed about the role they played in stoking the panic? Or is it simply that health scares sell more newspapers than government bungling?

Alive, son of Awake.

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