Remember the swine flu? Last year it was all you heard about on the news. Each evening we were shown statistics that gave us an up-to-the second tally of deaths linked to H1N1. “Experts” were encouraging everyone to get the vaccinated against this serious threat. Local clinics were swamped with terrified people demanding the vaccine for their entire family. All of this was because the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the swine flu was a world wide pandemic.
Now the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published an article accusing the World Health Organization of conflicts of interest with regard to H1N1. The authors accused the organization of exaggerating the severity of the virus, and of taking advice from experts with ties to vaccine- and antiviral-producing pharmaceutical companies.
Almost exactly one year ago Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization announced to the world that there was pandemic in full effect. She told us that she had consulted with leading scientists, doctors and virologists to make her decision.
The WHO offers advice to governments for situations just as these. If there is a major pandemic they advise governments on how to handle it. Following the WHO’s advice, governments bought billions of dollars worth of vaccines, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). And according to the BMJ, the vast majority of it is sitting unused.
The First Sign that Something was Up
For some reason, the WHO changed the definition of ‘pandemic.’ In response to the chicken flu outbreak in 1997 in Hong Kong, the WHO began to organize a pandemic preparedness plan.
The WHO’s first influenza pandemic preparedness plan was stark in the scale of the risk the world faced in 1999: “It is impossible to anticipate when a pandemic might occur. Should a true influenza pandemic virus again appear that behaved as in 1918, even taking into account the advances in medicine since then, unparalleled tolls of illness and death would be expected.” (From the BMJ)
The WHO is rightfully concerned about a flu pandemic of that scale. An estimated 50 million people, about 3% of the world’s population (1.6 billion in 1918), died of the disease. A total of 500 million, or 1/3 were infected. How could the WHO compare the swine flu last year to the 1918 flu? They aren’t even close.
The WHO has been accused of removing the words “enormous numbers of deaths and illness” from the definition of pandemic. I guess if you remove those words the 1918 influenza pandemic and the swine flu “pandemic” of 2009 could be categorized together.
Maybe, just maybe, this is the problem
The initial preparedness program was written entirely by people who stood to gain from frightening the world into stockpiling antiviral drugs (namely Tamiflu and Relenza). Roche, is the manufacturer of Tamiflu, and GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers Relenza. Both companies had employees on the committees advising Dr. Chan on whether or not to issue a pandemic warning. On the initial preparedness program it said:
“R Snacken, J Wood, L R Haaheim, A P Kendal, G J Ligthart, and D Lavanchy prepared this document for the World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI).” What this document does not disclose is that ESWI is funded entirely by Roche and other influenza drug manufacturers. Nor does it disclose that René Snacken and Daniel Lavanchy were participating in Roche sponsored events the previous year, according to marketing material seen by the BMJ/The Bureau. (From the BMJ).
Why are these antiviral drugs considered so important in a pandemic? Because vaccines are likely to take months to be available in the numbers required for a true pandemic of the scale that hit in 1918. These antivirals could be life saving if a truly virulent strain of flu emerged. They would also be a windfall of revenue for the pharmaceutical companies making them.
Of course, there are many natural remedies that boost immunity very effectively, but they are not marketed because they don’t have the big money of Roche or GlaxoSmithKline behind them. That’s for another blog though.
The WHO says it checked into the backgrounds of the people it relied on to make its guidelines which called for countries to stockpile antiviral drugs. It says it investigated the financial ties of these scientists to the pharmaceutical industry. But, according to the BMJ they are refusing to release the information they gathered in their investigations. This lack of transparency is concerning.
Because of these recommendations that the WHO put forward, mostly established by scientists with significant ties to Big Pharma, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline made $12 billion on antiviral drugs with the lion’s share going to Roche and Tamiflu ($10 billion).
And all this for drugs that should have never been approved for use in the US! An FDA advisory committee originally recommended that Relenza not be approved because it had safety concerns and showed very little benefit over placebo in US trials. The FDA did not adhere to the advice of its committee (it is not required to) and approved it because “they would feel better if there was something on the market in case of a pandemic,” and “it wasn’t a scientific decision.” This is according to Dr. Michael Elashoff who was a former employee of the FDA, and was the statistician working on the Relenza account. This fact, according to Dr. Elashoff paved the way for Tamiflu’s approval later that same year.
Dr. Chan wants the WHO’s work on H1N1 examined. She asked for an independent review of how the WHO handled H1N1 in January. Hopefully this will produce some results, but I doubt it.
Traditional medicine is filled with conflicts on interest from Big Pharma. This is just another example. The swine flu was not a major pandemic and according to the WHO “the overwhelming majority of patients experienced mild symptoms and made a rapid and full recovery, even without medical treatment.” If that was the case, and I believe it was, why did they instruct countries to stockpile billions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals? I think the answer is clear. Big Pharma was able to strategically place scientists on influential panels to sell drugs.
During the swine flu “pandemic” I recommended that patients take a little extra vitamin C, D, and A, get plenty of rest and eat as healthy as possible. Those recommendations are far safer than running out and vaccinating yourself or prophylactically taking Tamiflu, both of which have serious side effects. Remember, a conservative approach is almost always the best way to tackle a problem.