Processing Magazine

WHO Denies Pharmaceutical Giants Swayed Its Flu Decisions

January 26, 2010
According to Reuters, the World Health Organization denied accusations that it was influenced by drugs companies to exaggerate the dangers of the H1N1 flu virus. Pharmaceutical firms picked up multi-million dollar vaccination contracts when the United Nations health agency declared the flu a pandemic last June. The pandemic proved milder than health experts had originally feared, spurring accusations from some politicians and media that the WHO relied too much on advice from experts in the pay of the pharmaceutical industry -- who could have a vested interest in dramatizing the crisis -- have triggered an internal review by the WHO and an inquiry by the Council of Europe, a European Union human rights watchdog. The WHO''s top flu expert, Keiji Fukuda, told a hearing at the Council of Europe that although the organization''s response to the virus was not perfect, it had not been bounced into the wrong decisions by the drugs giants. The Council, which groups together most European countries, called on the WHO to address concerns over the handling of the pandemic. Many countries ordered tens of millions of doses of vaccines against H1N1 in a bid to protect their populations against H1N1 and are now trying to cut the orders or sell off surpluses of unused stock. Fukuda said the WHO consulted a range of experts, including scientists working in the private sector, when drawing up its health advice and had safeguards in place to protect against conflicts of interest.