WHO official defends H1N1 pandemic response

With fingers pointing and contracts canceling, there's almost as much H1N1 flu news now as there was back when the pandemic began. Here's a roundup of today's batch to help you get caught up over the long weekend.

  • A top WHO official dismissed charges that the agency exaggerated the threat posed by the H1N1 virus and that it had been unduly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry to issue dire warnings about the swine flu pandemic. As you know, some European lawmakers have alleged that H1N1 was trumped up into a pandemic by drugmakers eager to cash in. Story

  • The biggest vaccine makers--GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Baxter International, Novartis and CSL--are seeing a potential $7.6 billion shrinkage in their H1N1 sales windfall, analysts say. Article

  • Among those top vaccine makers, GlaxoSmithKline may have the most to lose as countries cut back their orders. The drugmaker will make less money than it had expected this year from its Pandemrix shot, and it faces lower demand for its flu treatment Relenza, Reuters reports. Report

  • Italy joins the party of European countries cutting back on their swine flu buys, by cancelling 24 million doses of vaccines it ordered from Sanofi-Aventis after only 900,000 people were immunized. Item

Yes, the H1N1 pandemic turned out to be milder than it appeared at first blush. Yes, governments around the world stockpiled both drugs and vaccines, boosting sales at some drugmakers and vaccines companies. But that doesn't mean a pandemic never happened; the definition of a flu pandemic requires a.) a novel virus, which H1N1 is; and b.) widespread infection, which there was. Virulence, whether lesser or greater, isn't a factor. As the WHO's special flu adviser told the Post, "The world is going through a real pandemic. The description of it as a fake is both wrong and irresponsible."