A new report has criticised the World Health Organisation (WHO) for declaring the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus (swine flu) a pandemic without sufficient evidence.

The report, written by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), implies that WHO’s pandemic announcement was influenced by the pharmaceutical industry.

The global swine flu scare increased the revenues of pharmaceutical companies by creating a massive demand for vaccines, leading to more than $18bn of global spending.

Editor in chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Dr Fiona Godlee brought additional information to PACE’s attention, stating that a BMJ team concluded that WHO anti-swine flu drug guidelines were prepared by scientists who had received payment from pharmaceutical companies Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl defended the organisation, noting that safeguards were in place to manage possible conflicts of interest when consulting the scientific community.

“As a public health agency operating on the precautionary principle, we had a duty of care to respond. This was a pandemic, and is a pandemic,” he said.