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Glob Public Health. 2012;7 Suppl 2:S111-26. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2012.728239. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

Evidence-based medicine and the governance of pandemic influenza.

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Centre for International Security Studies (CISS), University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.


The conventional response of governments to protect their populations against the threat of influenza has been to ensure adequate vaccine production and/or access to supplies of vaccines and antiviral medications. This focus has, in turn, shaped the global governance structures around pandemic influenza, with collective efforts centred on facilitating virus sharing, maintaining and increasing vaccine production, and ensuring access to pharmaceuticals - responses that remain unattainable for many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) in the short to medium term. This paper argues that this emphasis on pharmacological responses reflects a particular view of biomedicine that pays inadequate attention to the weak capacity of many health systems. In more recent years, this dynamic has been further exacerbated by the influence of evidence-based medicine (EBM) that preferences certain types of biomedical knowledge and practice. This paper explores the role that EBM has played in shaping the global governance of pandemic influenza, and how it has served to reinforce and reify the authority of particular groups of actors, including policy-makers, elected officials and the medical community. The paper concludes that only by unpacking these structures and revealing the political authority in play can alternative policy responses more appropriate to LMICs be considered.

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