Drug Makers Made Billions
The World Health Organization (WHO) is denying that it was pressured by pharmaceutical giants to exaggerate the dangers of the H1N1 virus. Drug makers picked up multi-million dollar contracts to produce a flu shot to slow the pandemic declared last June.
Thousands have died worldwide and millions have contracted H1N1, but it ultimately proved milder than expected, reports the CDC.
Reuters reports that critics and politicians have accused the WHO of relying too heavily on advice from experts paid for by the pharmaceutical industry, which had a vested interest in exaggerating the crisis.
GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, MedImmune, Baxter, and Sanofi-Aventis are among the producers of the swine flu vaccine, who signed multi-million dollars contracts for their production.
The U.S. prepared to launch a swine flu inoculation campaign after predictions that 1.8 million Americans could be hospitalized with about half dying, under a worst-case scenario reports the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Health experts agree that predicting the virulence of any virus is a guessing game.
The total cost to the U.S. government for the vaccines is more than $1 billion for about 195 million H1N1 vaccine doses made by the five companies.
British and French media have said the pandemic was “hyped” by health experts and question, “What Pandemic?”
An internal review has been launched by the WHO and an inquiry by the Council of Europe, which is a human rights watchdog. WHO’s top flu expert denied to the council that its decision had been pushed by the drug giants.
"Let me state clearly for the record. The influenza pandemic policies and responses recommended and taken by WHO were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry," said Keiji Fukuda to the Strasbourg-based body.
The WHO will also review how it classifies a ‘pandemic” currently classified as an infectious disease that spreads to many countries, continents or worldwide.
Dumping the Doses
As it stands now, many countries that ordered tens of millions of the H1N1 doses are now trying to stop the orders or sell off their unused surplus. Countries in the southern hemispheme have yet to reach the peak swine flu season. The UK is considering breaking its contract with Baxter, one of two pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines for Britain.
In the U.S., CVS and Walgreens and walk-in clinics are running TV ads to encourage people to get the H1N1 flu shot.
The seasonal flu season lasts from November through April each year. #