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Effectiveness claims for Tamiflu overestimated

Roche website

You read this here last November: for almost 5 years health experts in Britain have warned that there was not sufficient evidence to show that Tamiflu reduces the spread of influenza.

This week, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an updated comprehensive review of years of clinical studies about the safety and efficacy of the drug.

The Cochrane group of independent researchers who conducted the analysis concluded that the drug company’s (Roche) claims for Tamiflu’s effectiveness have been overestimated including reducing the risk of complications such as pneumonia and hospital admissions. Worse, the potential negative effects of taking Tamiflu were underreported by Roche.

Based on the original claims about Tamiflu, both the British, American and other international governments stockpiled the drug fearing a swine flu pandemic in 2009. The UK spent almost $711 million while the US spent more than $1.3 billion.

Part of the reason for the long delay in conducting the Cochrane group’s analysis was the difficulty the researchers had in obtaining clinical trial reports from Roche. According to BMJ the “fight for the data has also shown us, in more detail than ever, that the entire ecosystem of drug evaluation and regulation is deeply flawed.”

The authors of the article call for a redesign of the current drug evaluation system in the UK so that it can be independent of the drug manufacturer, allowing information like this to reach regulators, policymakers, healthcare providers and patients in a timely manner.

In the United States the CDC has not yet altered its recommendations for the use of Tamiflu to treat influenza. But stay tuned as modifications may be forthcoming in the months leading up to the 2014-2015 flu season.

In the meantime, if you have flu symptoms, check with your physician who can make a diagnosis and recommend treatment as needed.

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