PARIS – A report released by the Council of Europe on Friday accuses the World Health Organization and European governments of vastly exaggerating the public health risks of swine flu and making secretive decisions that benefited pharmaceutical companies.

WHO, the U.N. health agency, has said those who claim swine flu was a fake pandemic created for the benefit of drug companies are irresponsible.

A report by the health committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a 47-member human rights watchdog, says the public health guidelines by WHO, European Union agencies and national governments led to a “waste of large sums of public money and unjustified scares and fears about the health risks faced by the European public.”

Legislators from all members of the Council of Europe will debate the report June 24.

The committee said decisions about the outbreak were poorly explained and not transparent enough. It warned that public trust in WHO recommendations is “plummeting,” which could be dangerous in case of a more severe pandemic in the future.

Since avian flu broke out several years ago, governments worldwide have bought stockpiles of vaccines and antiviral drugs. The emergence of swine flu sparked some countries to buy even more drugs. Many of the drugs and vaccines have gone unused.

Because influenza is so unpredictable, authorities often must prepare for the worst. Some had feared swine flu could be as deadly as the 1918 pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people worldwide.

The WHO website says that, as of Sunday, 18,138 deaths were attributable to swine flu.


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