Bad enough that governments are cutting back their H1N1 vaccine orders and selling off their surplus. European officials now are firing up their debate over whether drugmakers unduly capitalized on the flu pandemic. The Council of Europe plans to consider a resolution that would accuse pharma companies of pressuring public health officials to make the H1N1 threat seem bigger than it really was.
That resolution is the brain child of Wolfgang Wodarg, the Council's health chief. He called H1N1 "a mild flu and a false pandemic," the Guardian says. And he said that the contracts between vaccine makers and governments gave companies the advantage. "The governments ... secure orders in advance and take upon themselves almost all the responsibility," Wodarg explains. "In this way, the producers of vaccines are sure of enormous gains without having any financial risks."
GlaxoSmithKline, CSL, and other vaccine makers would dispute that idea. After all, drugmakers have been allowing governments to cancel big chunks of their H1N1 orders, in light of lower-than-expected demand. Glaxo and Germany agreed to reduce that vaccine sale by one-third, Reuters reports today. And analysts have said they expect order cancellations to affect vaccine makers' earnings.
We can debate the issue here, of course, but the real debate takes place later this month. So stay tuned.