In the pages of The BMJ a decade ago, in the middle of a different pandemic, it came to light that governments around the world had spent billions stockpiling antivirals for influenza that had not been shown to reduce the risk of complications, hospital admissions, or death. The majority of trials that underpinned regulatory approval and government stockpiling of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) were sponsored by the manufacturer; most were unpublished, those that were published were ghostwritten by writers paid by the manufacturer, the people listed as principal authors lacked access to the raw data, and academics who requested access to the data for independent analysis were denied.
Ministers have agreed a secrecy clause in any dispute with the drugs manufacturer Pfizer over Britain’s Covid vaccine supply. Large portions of the government’s contracts with the company over the supply of 189m vaccine doses have been redacted and any arbitration proceedings will be kept secret.
The revelation comes as Pfizer is accused by a former senior US health official of “war profiteering’’ during the pandemic. In a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to be broadcast this week, Tom Frieden, who was director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under Barack Obama, said: “If you’re just focusing on maximising your profits and you’re a vaccine manufacturer … you are war profiteering.”
Funeral firm Dignity said profits have fallen amid a marked drop in UK deaths since April as the group’s new boss outlined his turnaround plans.
The group said that following a 27% surge in first quarter deaths to 204,000 during a Covid-hit start to the year, the number of deaths fell below the five-year average in April and May and were 7% lower.
This has left underlying operating profits “slightly” lower year-on-year at £30.7 million for the 21 weeks to May 21, according to Dignity.