For makers of the swine flu vaccine, 2009 was a year to remember. By June, CSL Limited's annual profits had risen 63 percent above 2008 levels. GlaxoSmithKine's 2009 earnings spiked 30 percent in the third quarter alone, to $2.19 billion. And Roche made a stunning 12 times more money in the second quarter of 2009 than of 2009. But in 2010, drug companies may get their comeuppance.
On Tuesday, the Council of Europe launched an investigation into whether the World Health Organization "faked" the swine flu pandemic to boost profits for vaccine manufacturers. The inquiry, held in Strasbourg, France, vindicates a worldwide movement of insiders, experts, and elected officials who accuse the United Nations organization of misleading the world into buying millions of unnecessary vaccines.
"I have never heard such a worldwide echo to a health political action," Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, an epidemiologist who formerly led the health committee for the Council of Europe, said at Tuesday's hearing.
Dr. Ulrich Keil, director of the WHO's Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology, hammered his own organization and WHO's flu chief, Dr Keiji Fukuda, for "producing angst campaigns".