Flu Scientists Who Advised Stockpiling Drugs Had Ties to Manufacturers

The BBC is reporting that some key scientists involved in advising the World Health Organization (WHO) to stockpile pandemic flu drugs, such as <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/tamiflu">Tamiflu and Relenza, were apparently tied financially with companies set to profit from such stockpiling, according to an investigation into the matter.

According to the BBC, The British Medical Journal (BMJ) said the scientists had openly discussed these desires in other publications; however, the WHO never made mention of the connections. The information became available in the wake of a report from the Council of Europe in which it criticized the lack of transparency surrounding how the ongoing swine flu pandemic was handled, said the BBC. A WHO spokesman said that the drug industry was not involved in influencing the WHO on the outbreak.

The WHO issued guidelines in 2004 that recommended governmental stockpiling of antiviral medications, said the BBC. Because of this, many countries bought large amounts of Roche’s Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) Relenza, said the BBC. Now a year has passed since the announcement of the swine flu pandemic, those stocks remain unused, sitting in warehouses, while governments scramble to “unpick” contracts, said the BBC.

In a joint investigation, the BMJ and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, discovered that three of the scientists who had a part in creating the 2004 guidance had received payment by Roche and GSK prior, for lecturing, consultancy work, and research, said the BBC. It seems that the scientists involved talked about the links elsewhere and said that the WHO requested conflict of interest forms prior to the meetings, said the BBC. It remains unclear if the conflicts discussed privately by the WHO to international governments, noted the BBC, citing the BMJ.

Also, “emergency committee” membership—which advised Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general on the declaration of the pandemic—was kept secret, added the BBC, which keeps the 16 committee member names private at the WHO, which also keeps any potential conflicts private, as well. In response, the WHO said on its Website, that “Potential conflicts of interest are inherent in any relationship between a normative and health development agency, like WHO, and a profit-driven industry. Similar considerations apply when experts advising the Organization have professional links with pharmaceutical companies. Numerous safeguards are in place to manage possible conflicts of interest or their perception,” quoted the BBC.

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