WHO Defends Handling of H1N1 Pandemic

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 4 (UPI) — World Health Organization officials Friday rejected claims in Britain they exaggerated the H1N1 flu threat and were unduly swayed by pharmaceutical interests.

Two reports released Friday added to growing criticism in Europe of WHO’s response to the H1N1 pandemic, The Washington Post said.

One report, issued in Paris by the Council of Europe, concluded WHO and other “competent health authorities of the European Union and at national level” took action and provided advice that led to “distortion of priorities of public health services across Europe.” The report concluded WHO’s handling of the pandemic resulted in the “waste of large sums of money” and “unjustified scares and fears.”

A report generated by the British medical journal BMJ and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism concluded there is a question whether “major public health organizations are able to effectively manage the conflicts of interest that are inherent in medical science.”

BMJ editor Fiona Godlee said WHO “must act now to restore its credibility,” the Post reported.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hart told the Post any suggestion the organization “declared a pandemic when there wasn’t a pandemic is both historically inaccurate and downright irresponsible.” Hartl said WHO was not “subject to undue conflict-of-interest” in its handling of the pandemic.

“We know that some experts that come to our committees have contact with industry,” he said. “It would be surprising if they didn’t because the best experts are sought by all organizations.”

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