Handshake drugs

Interesting article in the BMJ on the conflict of interest involved in the WHO pandemic recommendations regarding the swine flu pandemic of last year – remember that. I’m surprised we’re here at all to remember it given the hype.
The WHO were the official body that declared the “pandemic” and as a result kick started and guided the way we responded.
Most notably this brought an unheard of (though 10 year old) drug to world wide media attention.
It seems a bad idea that the NGO making the guidelines should be based on the science rather than the money but it seems that there is a lot of doubt as to the transparency of the process that WHO undertook and it is clear that many involved had financial ties to those making the drugs that were later recommended and more importantly stock piled (at big cost/profit) in colossal numbers by governments.
These drugs aren’t like penicillin for pneumonia. Even the most optimistic science doesn’t claim it’s gonna save lives. For a disease that gets better by itself in 99% of people then giving out these drugs in the drinking water will benefit only the people making them.
Interestingly the actual declaration of the pandemic triggered previously negotiated contracts on vaccine manufacture. There has been a suggestion that WHO not only changed the definition of pandemic but also that there was some influence on the actual declaration.
However given the way that drugs are developed it’s hard to form an expert committee to come up with guidelines without having a conflict of interest.
Having said all that, one of these days we’ll get a flu as contagious as swine flu (that spread over the globe) and lethal as bird flu (that had a 40% mortality) and we’ll be properly buggered. I think I’d have a different take on oseltamavir if the disease behaved different.
NB – Mark Crislip has a an interesting retort to the reporting on the reporting by the BMJ here.

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