[Editor’s Note: As the title of its statement just below describes, WHO continues to respond to various “allegations” around management of the H1N1 pandemic]
22 January 2010
WHO Statement of the World Health Organization on allegations of conflict of interest and ‘fake’ pandemic
Providing independent advice to Member States is a very important function of the World Health Organization (WHO). We take this work seriously and guard against the influence of any improper interests. The WHO influenza pandemic policies and response have not been improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.
WHO recognizes that global cooperation with a range of partners, including the private sector, is essential to pursue public health objectives today and in the future. Numerous safeguards are in place to manage conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest among members of WHO advisory groups and expert committees. Expert advisers provide a signed declaration of interests to WHO detailing any professional or financial interest that could affect the impartiality of their advice. WHO takes allegations of conflict of interest seriously and is confident of its decision-making independence regarding the pandemic influenza.
Additional allegations that WHO created a ‘fake’ pandemic to bring economic benefit to industry are scientifically wrong and historically incorrect.
Lab analyses showed that this influenza virus was genetically and antigenically very different from other influenza viruses circulating among people
Epidemiological information provided by Mexico, the US and Canada demonstrated person-to-person transmission.
Clinical information, especially from Mexico, indicated this virus also could cause severe disease and death. At the time, those reports did not indicate a pandemic situation, but taken together sent a very strong warning to WHO and other public health authorities to be ready for one.
As the pandemic evolved, clinicians identified a very severe form of primary viral pneumonia, which was rapidly progressive and frequently fatal, that is not part of the disease pattern seen during seasonal influenza. While these cases were relatively rare, they imposed a heavy burden on intensive care units.
Geographical spread was exceptionally rapid.
On 29 April 2009, WHO reported lab confirmed cases in 9 countries.
About 6 weeks later, on 11 June, WHO reported cases in 74 countries and territories in more than two WHO regions. It is this global spread which led WHO to call for increasing phases and finally, to announce that a pandemic was underway.
By 1 July, infections had been confirmed in 120 countries and territories.
The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is wrong and irresponsible. We welcome any legitimate review process that can improve our work.
An explanation of how WHO uses advisory bodies in responding to the influenza pandemic was made publicly available on the WHO web site on 3 December 2009
26 January 2010
Statement by Dr Keiji Fukuda on behalf of WHO at the Council of Europe hearing on pandemic (H1N1) 2009
[Initial paragraph and closing paragraphs. Full text available at the link below]
WHO is pleased to take part in this hearing, and thanks the Council of Europe for taking this initiative. The H1N1 influenza pandemic has created immensely complicated challenges for countries as well as the global community. At the same time, rising to this challenge has created an unprecedented level of global cooperation and coordination among countries in confronting a fast-moving threat in this increasingly linked and globalized world. There is much to learn about how the world can improve its handling of such events and a need to separate fact from rhetoric. Again, we welcome this opportunity….
“Recently, accusations have been made that policies and recommendations of WHO were influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. Providing independent advice to Member States is a very important function of the WHO that is taken seriously. WHO guards against the influence of any improper interests.
Let me state clearly for the record. The influenza pandemic policies and responses recommended and taken by WHO were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.
WHO recognizes that global cooperation with a range of partners, including the private sector, is essential for optimally addressing the public health challenges of today and tomorrow. Numerous safeguards are in place to manage conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest among members of WHO advisory groups and expert committees. Expert advisers provide a signed declaration of interests to WHO detailing any professional or financial matters that could affect the impartiality of their advice. WHO takes allegations of conflicts of interest seriously and is confident of the integrity and scientific validity of its decision-making during this influenza pandemic. An explanation of how WHO uses advisory bodies in responding to the influenza pandemic was made publicly available on the WHO web site on 3 December 2009.
In closing, I would like to reiterate the most basic point. This current influenza pandemic is a scientifically well-documented event in which the emergence and spread of a new influenza virus has caused an unusual epidemiological pattern of disease throughout the world. This is not an arbitrary matter of word-smithing, definitions or polemics. The labelling of the pandemic as “fake” is to ignore recent history and science and to trivialize the deaths of over 14 000 people and the many additional serious illnesses experienced by others.
As we go forward, the world will continue to face many difficult health challenges. The resources to face them are limited, especially among developing countries, and finding ways to do this better is the shared responsibility of Member States and organizations, such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as well as WHO. Thank you.