Swine flu and conspiracy

4 June 2010

Key scientists advising the World Health Organization on planning for an influenza pandemic had done paid work for pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from the guidance they were preparing.
BMJ: WHO and the pandemic flu "conspiracies" (abstract)

This piece of news must have been greeted with glee and vindication by those who felt knew that the WHO was up to something. They were hyping things up! Confirmation: conspiracy theorists people with good sense one, the WHO nil. Or is it?

It’s impossible to know whether the scientists’ views were coloured because of their associations with the pharmaceutical industry, and it is not for me to judge, however this was mismanaged because it gave an impression of a conflict of interest. Organizations such as the WHO, one would have expected, have measures to avoid giving such appearances of conflicts of interest.

More importantly though, does this mean that the next time the WHO issues an advice, it should be dismissed because i) the pandemic swine flu didn’t kill a huge number of people this time and ii) the WHO is run by people who will benefit from scaremongering? No. But I’m worried that a large number of people will ignore all future advice, not on merit but because it comes from a tainted institution. Then we may really have a serious and deadly pandemic on our hands.