WHO influenced H1N1 vaccine purchase?

Experts on WHO panels did not report conflict of interest

By Sharmila Kher
Published: Monday 15 February 2010

imageOn january 15, the World Health Organization (who)  said it would review itself to see if international health regulations were followed while recommending purchase of H1N1 influenza vaccines to member countries. This follows after a report in the Danish news daily, Information, alleged that health advisers of who are on the payroll of major pharma companies.

One of the experts under the scanner is Juhani Eskola, a new member of who’s advisory group of experts that recommends vaccines.

Eskola is the director of the Finnish institute, thl, which received a research grant of € 6 million from GlaxoSmithKline (gsk), producer of H1N1 vaccine Pandemrix. Eskola said he did not inform the public about the grant as it was a contract “between my chief and gsk and I am not a part of the study which received the money”.

At a recent executive board meeting of who in Geneva, Union health secretary of India, K Sujatha Rao, urged the UN body to explain media reports that say swine flu is a false pandemic. who agreed to formally write to all countries clarifying the factual position about the H1N1 pandemic.

The Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (pace) called an emergency meeting in January-end in France to debate if influence was exerted by drug makers on who’s global H1N1 flu campaign. Wolfgang Wodarg, chairperson of the pace health committee, described the flu pandemic as the biggest medical scandal of the century.

gsk is also conducting clinical trials in India for the vaccine. Prasad Kulkarni, additional medical director of Serum Institute of India, said the indigenous vaccine will be available in India by late March.

Jagannath Chatterjee who works for the non-profit Living Farms said diseases are being blown out of proportion to justify vaccine use. He said even Tamiflu purchase requirement was overestimated in India on account of all round panic.

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