Swine flu: The cash cow - Metro US

Swine flu: The cash cow

Swine flu turned out to be milder than the regular version, but it cost us $18 billion globally. So whose cash cow was it?

When H1N1 swine flu attacked one year ago, it was feared to ravage mankind, leaving millions dead. It was supposed to attack healthy, young adults, like the Spanish flu of 1918, which killed over 50 million people.

The World Health Organization declared it a highest, Phase 6 pandemic and asked pharmaceutical companies to deliver new vaccines, which they did.

Last October was the beginning of the mass vaccination.

“We believe that more than 290 million doses of vaccines have been administered,” said Gregory Hartel, WHO H1N1 spokes-man. “Such a rapid and huge undertaking has not been easy. Some countries don’t have enough experience with massive vaccination processes,” explains Hartel.

As of this month, swine flu has claimed 17,483 lives.


Some people aren’t complaining about to cost of combatting swine flu.

According to 2009 annual reports, GlaxoSmith-Kline made $1.35 billion selling pandemic vaccines last year, Novartis took in $1 billion and Sanofi-Aventis raked in $590 million. That’s almost $3 billion — and there are more pharmaceutical companies still selling H1N1 vaccines.

“Governments and public health services are wasting huge amounts by investing in pandemic scenarios whose evidence base is weak,” said professor Ulrich Keil, director of the WHO collaborating center for epidemiology and prevention of cardiovascular and chronic disease.


The definition of a pandemic was changed by the WHO last May. It was this change of definition that made it possible to transform a run-of-the-mill flu into a worldwide pandemic and made it possible for the pharmaceutical industry to transform this opportunity into cash, under contracts that were mainly secret.

Around $18 billion was spent on this pandemic worldwide, said Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, epidemiology expert and former chairman of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe subcommittee on health.

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