• 16 DEC 09
    • 0

    #1176: More on conflict of interest at WHO

    From Henrik Eiriksson:

    Find below a corrected translation of the latest article on WHO expert’s secret ties
    to industry from Danish paper “Information”:

    Best, Henrik


    WHO adviser didn’t disclose million-dollar contribution from
    pharmaceutical industry.

    A Finnish member of the WHO vaccine advisory group received 6.3 million euro (47 million Danish KRONER) from vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline for his research center.
    WHO pledges transparency, but the conflict of interest is not announced on
    the WHO website.

    By: Louise Voller & Kristian Villesen, 10. December 2009

    Yet another researcher on the WHO vaccine expert group withholds
    information on financial support from the pharmaceutical industry.
    Professor Juhani Eskola is the head of the Finnish research on vaccines
    (THL), and a recent member of the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts
    (SAGE) which reports to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. The SAGE
    provides recommendations for the types and volume of vaccines that member
    states must purchase in the event of a pandemic.

    According to a freedom-of-information-request disclosure, Professor Juhani
    Eskola Finnish Institute, THL, received in 2009 nearly 6.3 million euros,
    the equivalent of 47 million Danish KRONER from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for research into
    vaccines. Such an amount makes GlaxoSmithKline THL’s primary source of
    income. GlaxoSmithKline produces the H1N1 vaccine “Pandemrix” that the
    Finnish Government, by recommendation from THL and WHO, has purchased for
    national pandemic preparedness.

    Professor Juhani Eskola thus joins the ranks of WHO experts who play a
    double role in having strong economic ties to the pharmaceutical industry –
    a conflict of interest not declared nor published by WHO.

    In November, “Information” reported how several members of the WHO Expert
    Groups consulted for the pharmaceutical industry without informing the
    public about it. Since the exposure, meeting minutes and individual experts
    conflicts of interest have become available – but there is still no
    disclosure of conflicts of interest regarding several WHO expert advisers,
    including Juhani Eskola.

    In Finland, Professor Juhani Eskola sits in the middle of a national
    scandal. The Finnish Minister of Health is now on the case and demands full
    transparency regarding government researchers financial ties to the
    pharmaceutical industry. However the professor himself, denies that there
    is a problem. He has previously reported smaller consultancy fees from
    pharmaceutical company Novartis, and hides behind that.

    – Why didn’t you disclose information of a research grant of 6.3 million euros
    from GSK?

    “It’s a contract between my employer and GSK, and I’m not a part of the
    study, that money is funding.”

    – According to the WHO’s declaration of conflicts of interest, SAGE
    experts must disclose all research funding, grants, cooperative fees and
    sponsorships awarded their research unit dating back three years?

    “There are 1400 researchers at THL. If I had to disclose every financial
    relationship of which I am part, because the institution or other
    researchers receive a contribution from a pharmaceutical company, it gets
    complicated. It was my interpretation of the WHO’s declaration that I did
    not need to cancel cooperations with GSK, because neither I personally nor
    my research receives that money. WHO has asked me about this and now I’m
    wating to see whether they agree with my interpretation. If not, they
    should clarify their instructions.”

    – You are the leader of the entire department, and in 2009 GSK was your
    largest contributor. You don’t see a conflict of interest there?

    “This is a discussion we have had with the Finnish Minister of Health over
    the past few weeks. It is the ministry that has purchased the vaccines, not
    our institute. Pandemrix was chosen because it’s the best vaccine which in
    the shortest time could be brought to the Finnish market. When the decision
    was made in early June, the Ministry of Health chose, according to me, the
    correct solution, namely Pandemrix. ”

    – But you see a conflict of interest?

    “We are aware that there may be a conflict of interest.” He replies.

    ‘Extremely serious’

    According to WHO, all SAGE members are required to disclose all financial
    interests, including funding from pharmaceutical companies, consultancy
    fees and other forms of professional commitments. WHO declined an interview
    about why every WHO experts financial information has not yet been

    But in an e-mail, spokesman Gregory Hartl writes the following:

    “WHO has recently discovered that the Finnish National Institute of Health
    and Welfare has a research contract with GSK. The contract is a research
    project on pneumococcal vaccine within the Finnish vaccination programme.
    WHO will take appropriate action in relation to anything that might be
    perceived as conflicts of interest in this matter. ”

    Seven WHO expert advisors that are funded by the pharmaceutical industry

    Professor Juhani Eskola
    Deputy Director General of the Finnish National Institute of Health and
    Welfare. Permanent member of the WHO SAGE group. In addition, Juhani Eskola
    received money from vaccine manufacturer Novartis. This is published on the
    WHO website. Professor Juhani Eskola Institute in Finland in 2009 received
    47 million KRONER from GlaxoSmithKline which was not disclosed.

    Dr. Albert Osterhaus
    Professor of Virology, Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Member of SAGE
    H1N1 special working group. Albert Osterhaus is chairman of the European
    Scientists Fighting Influenza (ESWI), which is funded by pharmaceutical
    companies Baxter, Crucell, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, MedImmune, Nobilon,
    Sanofi Pasteur MSD, Glaxo Smith Kline and Solvay Pharmaceuticals. This was
    not disclosed prior to Information’s exposure of the matter.

    Dr. Frederick Hayden
    Influenza researcher at the research organization, The Welcome Trust,
    England. Invited expert at the SAGE Conference. Consultant for
    pharmaceutical company MedImmune in 2006 and performed studies for Sanofi
    Pasteur in 2007. Received money from pharmaceutical companies Roche, RW
    Johnson and SmithKline Beecham. This has not been disclosed by WHO.

    Dr. Peter Figueroa
    Professor of medicine and public health at the University of the West
    Indies. Permanent member of SAGE. Peter Figueroa received money from the
    pharmaceutical company Merck. This has been disclosed by WHO.

    Professor Malik Peiris
    Professor of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong. Permanent member of
    SAGE. Has received contributions from several pharmaceutical companies
    Baxter, GSK and Sanofi Pasteur. This is published on the WHO website.

    Dr Neil Ferguson
    Professor at Imperial College, London. Member of SAGE H1N1 special working
    group. Neil Ferguson has received contributions from pharmaceutical
    companies Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Roche. He has also received money
    from several insurance companies for advising on the risk of pandemics.
    This was not disclosed prior to Information’s exposure of the matter.

    Dr. Arnold Monto
    Head of Department at The University of Michigan School of Public Health.
    Invited expert at the SAGE Conference. Working as a consultant for
    pharmaceutical companies Chiron, GlaxoSmithKline, MedImmune, Roche,
    Novartis, Baxter and Sanofi Pasteur. This has not been disclosed by WHO.

    Source (in Danish): http://www.information.dk/218247

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