The issue about COI and policy recommendations in favour of stockpiling Tamiflu to protect against a potential flu pandemic has been in the news in Canada recently, following an investigative report by the CBC (CBC Tamiflu probe sparks drug policy review) and French language RDI (Le Tamiflu au coeur d’une polémique). In April I did a presentation on this case (online video) at the Institut de recherche en santé publique de l’Université de Montréal; the following write-up (Les conflits d’intérêts exigent la transparence, in French) summarises the key points of my presentation. My main message was that in a situation where public health agencies are making policy decisions that impact the general public, they need to work towards the highest levels of transparency and accountability, and should avoid even the perception of COI. This is a situation that, like the judiciary, cannot permit even a hint of COI, because the risk for undermining public trust and confidence (and the serious negative consequences of this, i.e., refusal to participate in public health prevention campaigns) is simply too great.
Nancy Walton at the Research Ethics Blog has a nice analysis of the issues of COI in research and the implications for public health policy making (Disclosing Conflicts of Interest: The Case of Tamifl).