The British Medical Journal dropped a bombshell this month when its features editor Deborah Cohen teamed up with journalist Philip Carter of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Together, they found out that the key scientists advising the World Health Organization on planning for the H1N1 influenza pandemic had done paid work for the very pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from their advice.
Almost exactly one year ago on June 9, 2009, Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, announced to the world’s media:
“I have sought guidance and advice from an Emergency Committee established for this purpose. On the basis of these expert assessments of the evidence, the scientific criteria for an influenza pandemic have been met. The world is now at the start of the 2009 influenza pandemic.”
Well, who knew that Chan’s “expert assessments” provided by her committee members were tainted? The WHO guidelines were pepared in collaboration with a group called the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI).” But what this committee did not disclose is that ESWI is funded entirely by the drug company Roche and other influenza drug and flu vaccine manufacturers.
And sure enough, one year on, governments of countries that took advice from WHO and their industry-funded “experts” are now unwinding their vaccine contracts, and billions of dollars’ worth of stockpiled anti-viral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) lie unused in warehouses around the world, unnecessary in managing the flu pandemic that never happened.
Investment bankers at J.P. Morgan reported that the pharmaceutical companies did very nicely during this health scare last year, profiting to the tune of $7 billion from the sale of vaccines alone.
According to the BMJ, these conflicts of interest have never been publicly disclosed, and WHO has dismissed inquiries into its handling of the H1N1 flu pandemic as “conspiracy theories.” In fact, when confronted, Chan responded just a wee bit petulantly, I thought:
“WHO anticipated close scrutiny of its decisions, but we did not anticipate that we would be accused of having declared a fake pandemic on the advice of experts with ties to the pharmaceutical industry and something personal to gain from increased industry profits.”
Note to Dr. Margaret Chan: REALLY?!? What were you thinking, Margaret? Are you now saying that you honestly didn’t anticipate this kind of conflict-of-interest accusation coming? The British Medical Journal investigation revealed that two of your “experts” (René Snacken and Daniel Lavanchy) were not only on Big Pharma payrolls, but had actually participated in Roche marketing events. Why would you even consider touching these guys with a 10-foot pole – never mind accepting credible scientific counsel from them?
Here are a few questions asked by the British Medical Journal investigators:
- Was it appropriate for WHO to take advice from experts who had declarable financial and research ties with pharmaceutical companies producing antivirals and influenza vaccines?
- Why was key WHO guidance authored by an influenza expert who had received payment for other work from Roche, manufacturers of oseltamivir, and GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers of zanamivir?
- Why does the composition of this Emergency Committee from which Chan sought guidance remain a secret known only to those within WHO?
Despite repeated requests, WHO has failed to provide any details about whether such conflicts were declared by the relevant experts and what, if anything, was done about them.
Meanwhile, back here at home, Crawford Kilian writing in The Tyee reported that Canadian health agencies have long since ceased to even follow the disease. The latest update on the website of the Public Health Agency of Canada is a travel notice posted on May 21, 2010. And a report in the Globe and Mail claimed that the national flu vaccination program had been a $2 billion bust.
Read the full British Medical Journal article.