The 2009 Flu Pandemic Scare Revisited

Journalist Helen Epstein in the latest New York Review of Books has produced a valuable look back at the 2009 H1N1 pandemic flu scare. One group that benefited from the pandemic scare, however, was the global pharmaceutical industry, especially Hoffmann-LaRoche, which sells the marginally effective anti-influenza drug Tamiflu. When the pandemic didn?t appear, it left European and other governments with stockpiles of drugs and vaccines worth hundreds of millions of dollars. During the ten years leading up to the pandemic declaration of 2009, scientists associated with the companies that were to profit from the WHO?s ?pandemic preparedness? programs, including Roche and GlaxoSmithKline, were involved at virtually every stage of the development of those programs. The companies funded the documents giving guidance on preparing for the influenza pandemic, in which the WHO recommended the stockpiling of Tamiflu and Relenza. Consultants d rafted parts of these documents and joined WHO officials in fund-raising for the Tamiflu stockpile. Industry-supported scientists were also on the committee that issued the 'pandemic emergency declaration.' That announcement caused developing countries to request assistance from the WHO?s Tamiflu stockpile fund, and these requests contributed to a tripling of the drug?s sales in 2009. By declaring a pandemic and linking the response to Tamiflu stockpiling, the WHO could not have done a better job of promoting Roche s interests. The U.S. spent $3.2 billion in pandemic flu preparations in 2009, she writes. Perhaps it s time for someone to investigate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision-making during this period to see if similar conflicts of interest were involved here.

Merrill Goozner, GoozNews

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