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Is TamiFlu a Scam?

Politics / Global Pandemic Dec 08, 2009 - 11:47 AM GMT

By: Nadeem_Walayat

Politics

The NHS has spent more than £500 million on TamiFlu on the premise that it will prevent the transmission of flu and hospitalisation of Swine Flu patients. To help disburse millions of dosages costing £70 each, the NHS introduced a National Flu helpline during mid 2009 and an online service which has allowed millions of patients to obtain Tami-flu prescription authorisation after just a few mouse clicks.


However Channel 4 News is now reporting that the key paper on which the effectiveness of TamiFlu makers Roche claims are based are being questioned by scientists as the drug maker is apparently refusing to make the vital data available to scientists for peer review.

Channel 4 reports further that other studies on the efftiveness of Swine flu do not stand up to clinical research - New doubts over Tamiflu

Governments around the world stockpiled supplies. In the UK alone the estimated bill for Tamiflu is approaching half a billion pounds.

Tonight Channel 4 News can reveal that serious scientific questions are being raised over the evidence base for Tamiflu.

Scientists we have spoken to say they have been unable to judge and properly test some of the claims made about the antiviral by its makers, Roche.

Claims about the drug's effectiveness in reducing hospitalisations have been a key factor in decisions by governments around the world to stockpile Tamiflu (oseltamivir). Manufacturer Roche estimates that sales of Tamiflu this year will reach £1.6bn.

Tamiflu's benefits are well-publicised. Advocates say it reduces the chance of flu being transmitted in the first place, and that once someone has become infected it shortens the duration of the illness. Today's review confirms these findings.

But the drug is also credited with reducing complications and hospitalisations in those who develop full-blown flu. In a recent interview Roche Pharmaceuticals CEO William Burns said: "What Tamiflu can do is actually reduce hospitalisations by more than 60 per cent, which is really important if we are in the midst of a major pandemic."

This is the claim now under scrutiny. The investigation by Channel 4 News and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has discovered that an independent team of scientists has been unable to verify the scientific evidence-base to support it.

The review, commissioned in July by the NHS and published today at BMJ.com, was conducted by the Cochrane Collaboration - a worldwide group of scientists and researchers that reviews medical research. They are internationally recognised for their work.

Speaking on Chanenl 4 News, Dr Tom Jefferson, one of the Cochrane reviewers said: "This is not just any drug, this is a public health drug which is recommended by governments...  and the World Health Organisation - and has been recommended for some years."

Much of the Cochrane team's work has looked at the leading piece of clinical research supporting claims that Tamiflu reduces hospitalisations. This research was authored by swiss scientist Professor Laurent Kaiser.

His research, based on 10 clinical trials set up by Roche found that Tamiflu reduced by 59 per cent the number of people with flu who ended up in hospital. Roche have repeatedly referred to Professor Kaiser's paper when talking about Tamiflu's ability to reduce hospitalisations.

The study released today acknowledges that Tamiflu has a modest effect in reducing symptoms and duration of illness in otherwise healthy adults by about one day, but says there is insufficient published data to independently confirm  its effects on reducing complications leading to hospitalisations .

When the Cochrane reviewers approached Professor Kaiser for the original data in order to verify his conclusions, he said he didn't have it and referred them to  Roche. However, following detailed communication with the company, Roche did not supply the Cochrane team with the complete data they had requested and they were unable to verify the paper's findings.

Because they were unable to independently verify this data, the Cochrane review disregarded Kaiser’s paper from their analysis of the scientific evidence base supporting Tamiflu’s effectiveness in reducing complications.  This removes a key plank of evidence supporting a claim repeatedly made by Roche and governments like ours.

And without this study, the reviewers came to a stark conclusion. Dr Jefferson told Channel 4 News: "We didn't find any convincing evidence that Tamiflu affects complications such as as hospitalisations and chest infections."

Source:

By Nadeem Walayat
http://www.marketoracle.co.uk

Copyright © 2005-09 Marketoracle.co.uk (Market Oracle Ltd). All rights reserved.

Nadeem Walayat has over 20 years experience of trading derivatives, portfolio management and analysing the financial markets, including one of few who both anticipated and Beat the 1987 Crash. Nadeem's forward looking analysis specialises on the housing market and interest rates. Nadeem is the Editor of The Market Oracle, a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication. We present in-depth analysis from over 400 experienced analysts on a range of views of the probable direction of the financial markets. Thus enabling our readers to arrive at an informed opinion on future market direction. http://www.marketoracle.co.uk

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