Monday, June 14, 2010

Publishers want more transparency of HCP's potential conflicts

Seems that our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic are upset about transparency, too.

BMJ wants the head of Margaret Chan, secretary-general of the WHO, who’s being accused of sheltering some members of an important “emergency” committee with alleged ties to industry. This committee made the decision on when to announce the H1N1 pandemic, and BMJ, among others, wants to know if committee members’ decisions helped put money in industry members’ pockets, namely Roche and GSK.

According to BMJ, industry makers profited handsomely because the committee wrongly predicted how large the pandemic would be, and so countries stockpiled antivirals. Even by industry standards, it’s serious money – about $7 billion total, according to BMJ, quoting JP Morgan.

The names of the 16 committee members are only known to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has said it won’t release the names until the committee’s work is finished. One committee member, according to BMJ, was consulting with Roche at the same time this person authored work on the “use of antivirals in a pandemic.”

Dr. Chan, in a MedPage today article, acknowledged the need for stricter transparency regulations, but denied that the committee made any decisions to help industry. "The bottom line, however, is that decisions to raise the level of pandemic alert were based on clearly defined virological and epidemiological criteria. It is hard to bend these criteria, no matter what the motive."

Industry can help here. The antivirals have a decent shelf life – a few years -- so Roche and GSK should consider buying some of the Tamiflu and Relenza back. Considering the financial situation that Europe finds itself in right now, that would be welcomed good will.

As for those committee members, face it – you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. It’s galling, absolutely, but the sooner you declare yourself, the sooner you’ll be left alone.

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