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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Conflict of Interest

We are suppose to be able to trust our governments.  Trust the medical professionals that give us information and recommendations about our health and trust the major associations that advise the public and our governing bodies when they are making decisions and statements.  I know that the vast majority of the John and Jane Doe's are perfectly happy to blindly follow the professionals that supposedly have our best interests at heart, but there are still a few thinking humans out there and we are seriously concerned.  

When you read the fine print and do your homework it becomes blatantly clear that such faith in the assumed omnipotence of these professionals and their associations is questionable at best.  "Conflict of  Interest" is rife in our governments and professional associations.  So much so that the question becomes "Who do you trust?"

CBC and other news agencies have spent months tracking down the truth about Tamiflu, the Be-all, End-all for dealing with the H1N1 flu virus..... or so they tried to convince us. The Canadian government stockpiled nearly $180 MILLION dollars worth of anti-viral drugs (mostly Tamiflu), and now a good portion of it is about to expire. Yep, Millions of dollars are about to be thrown out.  Why do we have these stockpiles of drugs and are they even worth it is the question the CBC and other media reporters are asking.  Why? Because the truth is that there is a HUGE conflict of interest that is deeply rooted at the centre of all this.

The CBC reports:

A CBC documentary, which was broadcast on The National on Monday night, reports that certain other researchers in Canada, Italy, Britain and the U.S. are now challenging the claims by Roche that Tamiflu can significantly reduce complications or hospitalizations due to the flu.
The documentary also raises concerns about possible side effects surrounding the drug — strange behaviours and psychiatric delusions — that some countries, Japan in particular, have reported.
Using freedom of information requests, the investigation found hundreds of similar cases in Canada and the U.S., which were reported to health authorities but have not been made public.
It’s often difficult to establish a clear causal link between a drug and rare adverse reactions. Roche says its research suggests that these side effects result from the flu itself and high fevers, not the medication.
In the course of the CBC investigation, Zalac also reported that three of Canada's most prominent flu experts — Dr. Donald Low and Dr. Allison McGeer of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and Dr. Fred Aoki of the University of Manitoba — had received research funding or acted as a consultant or speaker for Roche during the period when Tamiflu was being promoted....
...But these relationships were rarely reported in broader public forums, in the media or even when some of these individuals would appear in marketing videos or flu-warning commercials on television produced by Roche.

Conflict of Interest is a disease that riddles our entire government and the decision makers that we presume are looking out for the best interests of the people they are advising: Us. I have written several articles about the various xxxx that have been reported in the media, yet ignored by the public for the most part:

But Conflict of Interest isn't just about the flu, it happens in all aspects of the health industry!  WHO and UNICEF have both been targeted as having undisclosed conflicts of interest. As a matter of fact just recently  Ann Veneman, Unicef executive director from 2005 to 2010, joined forces with the evil Nestlé board of directors. This LINK  shows the implications of her shocking career move from an organisation that supports breastfeeding to one that undermines breastfeeding.
And then there is the recent call for submissions from the Health Canada Committee in charge of rewriting the guidelines "Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants: Birth to Six Months". Appalled by the fact that Health Canada left us with less than one month for the public and stakeholder groups to write their response to their draft document, we scrambled to gather our information and to petition HC for an extension of the deadline (which we did successfully).  While writing their response, Elizabeth Sterkin of INFACT Canada uncovered the committees dirty laundry: 3 of the members of the committee have ties to Infant formula and infant food companies.  Yet nowhere in their draft document or the information about the members of the committee does Health Canada reveal these conflicts of interest to the public or to stakeholder groups.  To not disclose this information when HC tries to make statements that if a mother is unable to breastfeed, commercial infant formula is her only option: ""Commercial infant formulas are the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk.".... hmmmmm.... no mention of donor milk or banked breastmilk.  Just formula.  Still think that conflicts of interest like this don't shape policies?
We need to stand up for our rights to have full disclosure and to have access to information to make informed choices that are not influenced by people that are motivated by financial gain.  We need to tell our governments that these conflicts of interest need to be fully disclosed to the public so that they KNOW where the information  is coming from and how commercialism and the mighty dollar might be twisting that information for their own gain.  
Accountability is not just an empty word.  It must be followed by action.