Although WHO promises transparency, this conflict of interest is not available for the public to see at WHO’s homepage.
Professor Juhani Eskola is the director of the Finnish research vaccine program and a new member of the WHO group ‘Strategic Advisory Group of Experts’ (SAGE).
SAGE recommends which vaccines -- and how many -- member countries should purchase for the pandemic.
According to documents acquired through the Danish Freedom of Information Act, Eskola’s Finnish institute, THL, received almost 6.3 million Euros from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for research on vaccines during 2009. GlaxoSmithKline produces the H1N1-vaccine ‘Pandemrix,’ which the Finnish government -- following recommendations from THL and WHO -- purchased for a national pandemic reserve stockpile.
Several other WHO experts also have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry--a double role that notably is not published by WHO.
The World Health Organization (WHO) proclaims itself to be an agency that “is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.”
If this is the kind of leadership they offer, you should run the other direction!
The more than 6.3 million Euros (equating to over 9 million American dollars) the WHO’s research center received from GlaxoSmithKline represents the vaccine program’s number one income source.
To which they respond, “We are aware that there appears to be a conflict interest.”
And this is on the heels of a major WHO scandal involving accusations by Austrian journalist Jane Burgermeister that the WHO conspired with Baxter International (a vaccine manufacturer) and the United Nations to produce and release live bird flu virus in 2009, in an effort to trigger a pandemic.
Burgermeister has accused them of “planning to commit mass murder.”
WHO’S Who in Government Corruption
As the Flu Case article states, this financial conflict of interest is not an isolated incident with one researcher—the following list of WHO researchers, reported to have financial ties to Big Pharma, suggests a more systemic corruption:
Dr. Peter Figueroa, Professor in the Department of Community Health and Psychiatry in Jamaica, has received money from Merck
Dr. Neil Ferguson has received funding from Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline, and Roche, as well as from some insurance companies
Professor Malik Peiris in Hong Kong has received money from Baxter GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur
Dr. Arnold Monto, advisor to Chiron, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, Roche, Novartis, Baxter and Sanofi Pasteur, has received funding from same
Dr. Friedrich Hayden, consultant to MedImmune and Sanofi Pasteur, received money from those companies, in addition to Roche, RW Johnson, and SmithKline Beecham
Introducing Dr. Flu
And then there is Dr. Albert Osterhaus, nicknamed “Dr. Flu” because he is head of the European Scientists Fighting Influenza within the WHO.
Dr. Osterhaus is a Dutch physician who has been very active in promoting mass vaccination through WHO and the Western media[i]. The government of the Netherlands is currently conducting an emergency investigation into the activities of “Dr. Flu” since it was recently discovered that he has been receiving a salary from several swine flu vaccine companies.
Dr. Osterhaus has received funding from Baxter, Crucell, Novartis, Hoffman-La Roche, MedImmune, Nobilon, Sanofi Pasteur, MSD, GlaxoSmithKline, and Solvay.
The WHO is in the powerful position of reviewing and making vaccine recommendations to the world. Tom Jefferson, professor of epidemiology at the Cochrane Center in Rome, aptly states:
“It is disturbing that many of the scientists who sit on various committees of WHO, are presented as ‘independent experts’, but they carefully conceal the fact that they receive money from pharmaceutical companies.”
Dr. Jefferson goes on to tell reporters:
“The WHO is biased in their recommendations. Normal hygiene measures provide much greater effect than these little-studied vaccines, and at the same time WHO refers to the use of masks and hand-washing as a means to combat swine flu only twice in their documents. Vaccines and other medications are referred to 42 times!”
But hand washing never made anyone wealthy.
Dr. Jefferson and several of his colleagues believe that paid advisers of the pharmaceutical companies should be removed from their positions and not allowed to give recommendations to the WHO.
I couldn’t agree more. But the organization itself is in no hurry to carry out such reform.
The Evil Geniuses of Big Pharma
The WHO is not unique in its vulnerability to the influence of Big Pharma.
Washington teems with a thousand industrial lobbyists. They cluster around the band of luxury offices and expensive restaurants that stretches from the White House to the Capitol building--a two-mile axis along which money and power are constantly traded.
In this pantheon of corporate muscle, no industry wields as much power as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association (PhRMA), a pressure group renowned for its deep pockets and aggression, even by the standards of U.S. politics.
There is also a perpetual revolving door between government and the pharmaceutical industry—more and more key government positions are filled with people living “double-lives” with drug/healthcare companies:
President Obama’s nominee at the Department of Homeland Security overseeing bioterrorism defense, Dr. Tara O’Toole, has served as a key advisor for a lobbying group funded by a pharmaceutical company that has asked the government to spend more money for anthrax vaccines and biodefense research[ii].
Tom Daschle—the former Democratic senator from South Dakota and Senate Majority Leader—who was President Obama’s first pick for secretary of health and human services. Daschle’s work included being a paid advisor for a lobbying law firm that earned $16 million representing some of the healthcare industry’s most powerful interests.Of course, as you might recall, this nomination didn’t fly.
Senior Advisor David Axelrod is accused of collecting big money from Big Pharma to pass healthcare reform by way of his former partners at a Chicago-based firm called AKPD Message and Media. In fact, he founded the firm, and his son is still employed there.[iii]
These are but a few examples—there are many more to be found.
To quote Democratic congressman Sherrod Brown:
“The PhRMA doesn’t need to lobby. The industry is in the While House already.”
Drug giants not only specialize in influencing government officials, but they also have the ordinary physician in their grips.
The practice by drug companies of lavishing gifts upon doctors—far beyond pens and mugs—including exclusive vacations, “consulting” agreements that involve little work and other freebies—is gaining increased scrutiny and disapproval in the public’s eye.
Even more quietly, another practice is growing in popularity.
This devious ploy involves private-practice physicians setting up tax-exempt charities, which then receive major donations—to the tune of millions of dollars a year—from drug companies and medical device makers. The “charities” then typically conduct medical research or education, which the physicians behind them promote as being legitimate.
Increasingly, Big Pharma spends billions to influence what doctors see, read and hear, often persuading them to prescribe more drugs, just as it spends billions to taint researchers’ decision-making process.
A national survey of physicians published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, well-known and often quoted, found that 94 percent of physicians have a “relationship” with the pharmaceutical, medical device, or other related industries.
This massive conflict of interest has prompted Senators Chuck Grassley and Herb Kohl to introduce a bill called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which would require physicians to report annually to the government all payments over $100, beginning in 2010, and that information would be made available to the public.
What’s the Cost of Pushing Pills These Days?
Exactly how much does the pharmaceutical industry spend to push its products?
A study in 2008[iv] endeavored to measure those costs, and the results are staggering.
They calculated that Big Pharma spends almost twice as much on promotion as they spend on research and development:
The industry spent $57.5 billion on marketing and promotion in 2004. (This estimate far exceeds the $20 billion estimated by the research firm called Integrated Medical Systems (IMS), which is most often quoted.)
The amount spent on research and development pales in comparison, at $31.5 billion.
Add to that what the industry spends in lobbying, and it adds up to a mind-numbing figure.
These numbers clearly demonstrate the need for redirecting the priorities of the industry toward more research and less marketing, besides the need for quashing the greed and corruption that run so rampant within it.
“Trust Allah, But Tie Up Your Camel”
Until the umbilical cord between Big Pharma and the government is cut, healthcare/health policy reform will remain a dream. Until then, take what your government and your physician tell you with a grain of salt.
Trust but verify.
Remain proactive, educating yourself on these issues rather than simply believing the press releases that are reiterated a hundred times on every cable channel.
With respect to the swine flu, I recommend spending a little time reviewing the vast supply of information available on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) site, if you haven’t already done so.
[i] “World Health Organization “manufactured” the global swine flu scare—suspected of corruption” November 26, 2009, Infowars Ireland
[ii] McElhatton J. “Obama nominee omitted ties to biotch” The Washington Times, September 8, 2009
[iii] Vogel K. P. (August 19, 2009) “David Azelrod’s ties targeted in health fight” Politico
[iv] Gagnon M.A., Lexchin J. (2008) “The cost of pushing pills: A new estimate of pharmaceutical promotion expenditures in the United States.” PLoS Med 5(1)