Roche Hotly Criticized by British Medical Journal Over Tamiflu

A researcher connected to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) is urging European governments to sue drug maker, Roche, over it Tamiflu product.

The BMJ alleges that no evidence exists that Tamiflu does, in fact, stop the flu, said the Associated Press, noting that Tamiflu has been stockpiled by what the AP said were “dozens of governments” around the world who have been preparing for a potential global outbreak of the flu. Tamiflu was used during the swine flu pandemic of 2009.

“I suggest we boycott Roche’s products until they publish missing Tamiflu data,” wrote Peter Gotzsche, head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, wrote the AP. Gotzsche is urging governments to take legal action against Roche in order to recoup the funds that were wasted on Tamiflu stockpiles, said the AP.

In 2012, the drug was part of a list of so-called “essential medicines” by the World Health Organization (WHO). The list typically prompts governments or donor agencies to purchase a drug, noted the AP.

We’ve written that independent research questioned the efficacy and safety of the ubiquitous flu drug. The study, conducted by research firm Cochrane Collaboration, was commissioned by the U.K. National Institute for Health Research to investigation the perceived benefits of taking Tamiflu, as well as any potential Tamiflu side effects. The firm examined 10 clinical trials of Tamiflu and noted that people taking Tamiflu generally feel better one day quicker than those not taking the drug after first experiencing symptoms of influenza. The effectiveness of it reducing the symptoms of the flu by nearly a day are not questioned by the researchers. What came into question was the decision by governments, worldwide, to stockpile the drug in attempts to reduce the spread of pandemic flu.

In 2009, stockpiles of Tamiflu were amassed by the U.S. and other governments in the wake of the H1:N1 Swine Flu pandemic. The Cochrane researchers believe stockpiling Tamiflu proved to only benefit Roche, which banked more than $3 billion in sales of the drug in that year, alone.

Specifically, according to the research, people taking Tamiflu for the treatment of flu symptoms do not seem to experience a reduction in the risk of being hospitalized for treatment. The researchers blame Roche’s withholding of eight clinical studies of Tamiflu’s effectiveness and safety for blurring government and physician belief on the effectiveness of the drug. When Roche finally agreed to release the findings of clinical studies completed on Tamiflu, the Cochrane researchers said the drug company only released the beginnings of those reports. It got the rest of that research through the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Tamiflu is used to treat both seasonal flu and new flu viruses, such as bird or swine flu, said the AP.

Roche issued a statement saying it complied with all legal requirements on publishing data and provided Gotzsche and his team with some 3,200 pages of information. “Roche has made full clinical study data … available to national health authorities according to their various requirements, so they can conduct their own analyses,” Roche said, according to the AP. The EMA is also investigating for inappropriately reporting side effects, including possible deaths, for 19 drugs including Tamiflu.

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