Health expert: Swine flu outbreak exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies for profits

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wolfgang Wodarg, a European health official, has said that the severity of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic was intentionally exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies so they could receive large profits.

Wodarg, who is the Council of Europe's head of health, claimed that the manufacturers of the anti-virus drugs pressured the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare a global pandemic over the outbreak. The Council said it would investigate the allegations in a debate scheduled for later in January.

Wodarg commented about his accusations to the Al Jazeera news agency. "There is a very inefficient work of our agencies. They made a big panic with the bird flu and they made big panic with the swine flu. The national governments spent billions of euros to buy their vaccines [for H1N1] so we have to investigate what was behind it, we cannot afford such agencies that spent the money for useless health measures," he said.

The official also commented that "it's just a normal kind of flu. It does not cause a tenth of deaths caused by the classic seasonal flu," as quoted by FOX News. "The great campaign of panic we have seen provided a golden opportunity for representatives from labs who knew they would hit the jackpot in the case of a pandemic being declared."

"We want to clarify everything that brought about this massive operation of disinformation. We want to know who made decisions, on the basis of what evidence, and precisely how the influence of the pharmaceutical industry came to bear on the decision-making [...] A group of people in the WHO is associated very closely with the pharmaceutical industry."

The drug company GlaxoSmithKline responded to Wodarg's allegations. "Allegations of undue influence are misguided and unfounded. The WHO declared that H1N1 swine flu met the criteria for a pandemic. Responding to it has required unprecedented collaboration. As WHO have stated, legal regulations and numerous safeguards are in place to manage possible conflicts of interest," it stated.

Swine flu's impact across the world hasn't been as serious as was initially predicted, the Guardian reports; in the UK, up to 65,000 deaths from the virus were anticipated at the height of the scare, now the estimate is about a thousand, and the current death toll from H1N1 is 360. As a result, there is now a surplus of vaccines.

David Salisbury, the Department of Health's director of immunisation, said that it hasn't yet been decided what to do with the UK's surplus of vaccine, although talks are underway. "We have to keep a stockpile for ourselves because we simply don't know what is going to happen over 2010, and we know that there are proportions even within the risk group who have not been vaccinated. If there were a UK resurgence during 2010, we would look very foolish if we had disposed of a valuable stockpile."