Scientists support WHO H1N1 pandemic warning

Last Updated: Jun 09, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Scientists have rejected views of two investigations that suggest that the World Health Organisation (WHO) exaggerated a pharmaceutical industry warning of the H1N1 flu becoming a pandemic.

Both reports-one conducted by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Bureau of Investigative journalism; and the second; by the health committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have alleged that the WHO might have been widely influenced by the pharmaceutical industry in declaring the H1N1 virus a pandemic.

The two investigations go to the extent of declaring the warning as baseless and unsubstantiated.

However, scientists still defended the WHO warning.

Commenting on the BMJ’s declaration that three scientists were involved in preparation of a 2004 WHO document and received payments from the pharmaceutical industry, Michael Osterholm, a director at the University of Minnesota`s Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minneapolis, said the 2004 document was based on the inputs of an international panel.”

He also ridiculed the BMJ allegations that three of the scientists of the panel had received payments from pharmaceutical companies.

"To suggest that the three scientists were able to direct and control the final recommendations is naive, and stated without a single shred of evidence," He said.

Another scientist Albert Osterhaus said that WHO has a "clear firewall" with its funders, and that it informs all partners about any of its competing interests — its sources of funding are also listed on its website.

However, Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, says that the WHO`s advice on the pandemic has been sound, and has reflected the state of scientific opinion.