Not influenced by pharma cos on H1N1 pandemic: WHO | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Not influenced by pharma cos on H1N1 pandemic: WHO

delhi Updated: Jun 09, 2010 15:15 IST

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With critics from many parts of the world claiming that the swine flu threat was blown out of proportion, World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Margaret Chan has ruled out commercial interests in declaring the influenza a pandemic.

"At no time, not for one second, did commercial interests enter my decision-making," Chan said in a statement on Tuesday.

The statement comes almost a year after H1N1 was declared a pandemic June 11 last year.

A British journal last week claimed that WHO's stand on the flu was influenced by pharmaceutical companies hoping to make profits.

The article in British Medical Journal (BMJ) claimed three scientists out of 22 who worked on the guidelines for pandemic flu preparations received some money from pharmaceutical companies. The journal said the scientists were paid for things like speaking at meetings sponsored by the companies.

The article also recommended countries to consider buying vaccines to combat a pandemic. India is among the countries which imported large stocks of swine flu vaccines for health workers before launching its indigenous vaccine last week.

"The implication that WHO provoked unjustified fear also needs to be addressed. The record is otherwise, and not a matter of interpretation," the WHO director-general said in the statement addressed to the BMJ editors.

"On June 11, 2009, when I announced the start of the pandemic, I drew attention to the fact that the worldwide number of deaths was small, and clearly stated that we did not expect to see a sudden and dramatic jump in the number of severe or fatal infections," Chan said.

"In every assessment of the pandemic, WHO consistently reminded the public that the overwhelming majority of patients experienced mild symptoms and made a rapid and full recovery, even without medical treatment," Chan said.

She also pointed out that an independent review committee under the International Health Regulations will evaluate WHO's performance in handling the pandemic.

"The committee agreed to address criticism currently being levelled at WHO as part of its evaluation. I have publicly expressed my desire to see a critical, independent and transparent assessment of WHO's performance," she said.

The evaluation process started April 10.

"Decisions to raise the level of pandemic alert were based on clearly defined virological and epidemiological criteria. It is hard to bend these criteria, no matter what the motive," said the director general.

Allegations of the swine flu threat being blown out of proportion are being raised against the WHO globally. According to reports, more than 15,000 people died of the deadly virus last year.

In India, 31,934 people have so far been affected by the H1N1 flu. The casualties from the flu reached 1,531 by May 31.