No evidence Tamiflu drug prevents flu, says British Medical Journal - Macleans.ca

No evidence Tamiflu drug prevents flu, says British Medical Journal

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Tamiflu, a drug that has been stockpiled by governments around the world in the event of an influenza pandemic, may do nothing to prevent the flu, says the British Medical Journal.

Researchers associated with the journal have been pushing drug maker Roche to release clinical trial data on Tamiflu since 2009 without success, but the dispute reached new heights Monday when one researcher suggested a boycott or legal action was in order.

According to an AP report, Peter Gotzsche, leader of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, wrote: “I suggest we boycott Roche’s products until they publish missing Tamiflu data.” He went on to say that governments should take legal action against Roche to get the money back that was “needlessly” spent on stockpiling Tamiflu.

Gotzsche’s letter was a response to an editorial written by BMJ editor-in-chief Fiona Godlee on Oct. 29. Since 2009, “Roche has stonewalled, variously pleading patient or commercial confidentiality, or claiming that sufficient data have already been provided,” she writes in the editorial.

She goes on to write that, since not all of the data from clinical trials has been published: “This means that tax payers in the United Kingdom and around the world have spent billions of dollars stockpiling a drug for which no one except the manufacturer has seen the complete evidence base.”

In the interest of open data, The British Medical Journal has also published its correspondence with Roche in regards to accessing clinical trials data. In the correspondence, Roche says that it has already released more than 3,200 pages of information.

The World Health Organization lists Tamiflu, generically known as oseltamivir, among its “essential medicines” list, which was last updated in March 2011. The medicines included on the list “are intended to be available within the context of functioning health systems at all times,” writes the WHO.

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