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Europe
Doubts cast on H1N1 scare
Leading European health expert says drug firms exaggerated threat for financial gain.
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2010 16:11 GMT

The severity of the H1N1 outbreak was deliberately exaggerated by pharmaceutical companies that stood to make billions of dollars from a worldwide scare, a leading European health expert has claimed.

Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, has accused the makers of vaccines for the virus of influencing the World Health Organisation's (WHO) decision to declare a pandemic.

The council, a Strasbourg-based body responsible for the European Court of Human Rights, has decided to investigate Wodarg's claims in an emergency debate on the issue to be held later this month.

Wodarg said the crisis led to governments around the world ordering and stockpiling millions of doses of anti-flu drugs which were not needed.

'Inefficient work'

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Wodarg said: "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."

In a statement to Al Jazeera, Aphaluck Bhatiasevi, a media officer for WHO, said: "Providing independent advice to member states is a very important function of WHO, we take this work very seriously and guard against the influence of any vested interests.

"We welcome any legitimate review process that can improve our work."

In response to Wodarg's comments, GlaxoSmithKline, one of the makers of H1N1 vaccines, said: "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."

Source:
Al Jazeera
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