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Effectiveness of Tamiflu reviewed again

Recent reports have called into question the effectiveness of Tamiflu, along with concerns about many governments’ big purchases of the antiviral drug. This is because several studies have not found considerable benefit from taking the medication. This issue has been featured as a Digital Journal report.

In the UK, for example The Cochrane Collaboration released a report. It notes that the U.K. spent over $600 million (£473 million) on Tamiflu (also known as oseltamivir). The report shows that the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms. The reduction in symptoms was not to the extent that the huge cost could be justified.

However, a new study of the available data, published in the medical journal The Lancet has found Tamiflu to be more effective in reducing hospitalizations than earlier reports suggest (the research report is called “Oseltamivir treatment for influenza in adults: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.”) Nonetheless, the drug’s side effects were confirmed. In short, the research showed that oseltamivir (Tamiflu), reduces symptom duration by about a day while causing nausea and vomiting in a minority of recipients.

The new study was run by Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. With the research, patients with influenza who took Tamiflu had a reduced risk of needing antibiotics or being admitted to the hospital, but also had a higher risk of nausea and vomiting.

Although the results are of interest, a note of caution was struck by Kevin Conway, a statistician at the Open University in an interview with The Guardian: “A study like this can’t on its own say whether it is worthwhile to trade off the reduction in the length of symptoms against the risk of nausea and vomiting.”

Moreover, Peter Doshi, an epidemiologist at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy told ScienceInsider: “There are no new data presented here on complications or hospitalizations that we did not already know of.”

Doshi went onto explain that the difference in conclusions on Tamiflu’s benefits comes from how the data were interpreted.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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