I am not sure which is wackier, the disaster politics of the H1N1 vaccine or ethics standards at Erasmus University Medical Center, a teaching hospital in Rotterdam. Ab Osterhaus, chief virologist at Erasmus, has advised the the Dutch government and international agencies (WHO, for one) on approaches to fighting the flu pandemic and has even recommended that the government purchase flu vaccines. DutchNews.nl reports he works part time for—and has a 10 percent share in—the university-owned ViroClinics which is researching a flu vaccine.
Anton Westerlaken, chairman of Erasmus MC, told the Telegraaf professors have to become a shareholder in any company set up under university auspices to exploit a patent. Any profits are divided 80% to the university and 20% to the professors involved, he said.Earlier this year Osterhaus denied having shares in the companies making vaccines.
Osterhaus told the paper he had done nothing wrong. 'I have always said I am involved in that company and shares are all in the game,' he said.
Of course, as a powerful institution clearly worried about its reputation, Erasmus has covered its ass today with a perfunctory statement (Dutch) stating that there is no conflict of interest. But it owes the public a thorough explanation of how and why Professor Osterhaus' initially lying about his connection to profit-making companies did not violate medical center ethical guidelines. Was Erasmus aware of that? If so, why didn't they do something about it?
Cross posted at Antemedius and Blazing Indiscretions.
This story is becoming worthy of a Molière farce. Professor Osterhaus' interests and influence are a tangled web indeed. Erasmus MC may want to revise its statement. DutchNews.nl cites reports today in Financieele Dagblad that he
is also chairman of Belgian foundation ESWI which promotes the use of vaccines and is sponsored by the global vaccine industry, the paper says.Good on the FD's investigative journalism! So, Erasmus gave Osterhaus a pass and a nod. How many members of the hospital's professional medical ethics board are linked to BigPharma?
GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, the two companies which are supplying the Dutch government with 34 million swine flu doses on Osterhaus' recommendations, are both among the sponors, the paper says.
In addition, Osterhaus is an advisor at Britain's Jenner Institute which develops animal vaccines and has close industry ties.