A report in the leading French newspaper Le Monde (followed by other news outlets) names Prof Andrew Pollard as a controversial figure in the activities of the European Medicines Agency (to the EMA). Echoing reports in AoA during the last year (and evidence presented by Angus Files and myself to the Scottish Parliament) that Prof Pollard chaired a British government committee which recommended for infant use Bexsero Men B vaccine of which he himself was the lead developer, Le Monde cites a complaint from the Nordic Cochrane Centre which has now been brought forward for further consideration by the European Ombudsman. Stephane Foucart, writes:
The complainants also questioned why the agency dismissed some experts from deliberations due to conflicts of interest, while the chairman of one of the EMA panels, Andrew Pollard from Oxford) has been maintained. The latter has, in particular, conducted four studies financed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) or Sanofi, between 2010 and 2014. Moreover, according to our information, its declaration of interests at the EMA omits to mention certain financial support from manufacturers of some welknown vaccines at his institution. There was no response to the enquiries of Le Monde over these interests.
The complaint followed: “reports to the Danish health authorities [of] several dozen cases of girls who have been vaccinated against HPV and who, in the following months [developed] disorders, grouped under various names: "chronic fatigue syndrome", "complex regional pain syndrome", "postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome" ...”
A key issue is that EMA failed to conduct its own searches but and simply requested that pharmaceutical companies GSK and Sanofi Pasteur MSD (who market Gardasil in Europe) consult their own databases. Anne Chailleu, president of Formindep, which campaigns in France for the independent training doctors explained to Foucart: "Pharmaceutical companies are obliged to record in their databases reports of side effects of their medicines…But the same disorder is sometimes indexed in several ways, so how to query a database is important: depending on the keywords searched, the results can be very different. "
Peter Gøtzsche, the lead author of the Nordic Cochrane Centre complaint had obtained a confidential EMA report which contrary to its public line that there was “unanimity among experts” admitted that some experts were “very critical of certain arguments”. Secrecy was also an issue.
Another of Nordic Cochrane Centre’s co-authors Tom Jefferson - also of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in Oxford - complained that there was no evidence of any independent investigation of the data. Other important issues Jefferson raised were that the vaccines were not trialled against genuine placebos but against other vaccines containing an aluminium adjuvant. He also complained that in conducting their review the EMA had excluded some studies without apparent reason.
The appointment of Prof Pollard to the United Kingdom Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation followed on pressure from the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, to recommend the Bexsero Men B vaccine prior to their meeting in June 2013 but they failed to agree. The recommendation for infants was made at the second meeting chaired by Prof Pollard in February 2014 (a consensus decision in which no one recused themselves and no one voted). Very soon after the recommendation negotiations began for the transfer of Novartis’s vaccine division (which manufactured Bexsero) to GSK, in turn finalised in January 2015 with the vaccine becoming window-dressing for the forthcoming election. Although Prof Pollard’s committee only recommended the vaccine for infant use a campaign for the vaccine was started in the media for older children and young adults which drove up private sales.
Readers of AoA will be aware that patents for the two HPV vaccines are owned by the US government.
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.