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article imageNew call to assess Tamiflu

By Tim Sandle     Oct 17, 2015 in Health
London - U.K. experts have urged that new trials be conducted to see if the anti-flu drug Tamiflu can really help save lives in a pandemic. Use of the drug, and its relative cost, have proved controversial in the past.
Some studies have questioned the effectiveness of Tamiflu, especially the high expense in relation to many governments’ large volume purchases of the medication. For instance, the Cochrane Collaboration reported that the U.K. spent over $600 million (£473 million) on Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir.) This research found that the antiviral did not significantly lower flu incidents or reduce the risks of dangerous complications. The report did note there was a slight improvement in recovery times, but this short time did not justify the cost of the medication. In terms of time reductions, The Daily telegraph’s review of the data showed that the drug reduced the persistence of flu symptoms from seven days to 6.3 days in adults and to 5.8 days in children.
However, other reports suggest that the drug can be beneficial. The Lancet, for example, reported that Tamiflu can lower the rate hospitalizations due to flu complications (see: "Oseltamivir treatment for influenza in adults: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.") This report did, however, highlight the potential side effects that come with the drug, including nausea and vomiting.
In light of these mixed messages, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the Wellcome Trust have called for a new trial to be conducted. As summarized in The Guardian, the medical experts would like people who visit a doctor with flu symptoms to be randomly assigned either Tamiflu, nothing at all, or an alternative medication like paracetamol. Data would then be gathered about each person and the results evaluated.
Others, however, have questioned the ethics of such a study. One of the reasons for the uncertainty over the effectiveness of the medication is because the manufacturer — Roche — will not release data relating to clinical trials conducted on oseltamivir to the independent medical experts. Roche has argued that the information is commercially sensitive. To others this is a sign that the drug is not particularly effective.
Without the manufacturer’s data and an effective trail being run, an answer to Tamiflu’s effectiveness may not come soon.
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