Tamiflu review spurs debate over stockpiling

A new analysis of withheld studies has questioned the usefulness of antiviral drug Tamiflu in the event of an influenza pandemic.

The review, undertaken by the independent Cochrane Collaboration, examined data from pharmaceutical company trials involving over 24,000 patients. The authors of the report concluded that, while neuramidase inhibitors — a class of drug which includes Tamiflu — may shorten influenza symptoms by around half a day, there is no good evidence to support claims that it reduces admissions to hospital or complications of influenza.

The results raise questions about value of government stockpiles of the drug held for use in the event of an influenza pandemic.  The author of the report were blunt in their conclusions:  “Our findings do not support the stockpiling of neuramidase inhibitors,” they write.

Read extensive commentary from New Zealand, Australian and UK experts, collected by the SMC network.

Here in New Zealand, Medsafe general manager Dr Stewart Jessamine told the Otago Daily Times study was insufficient for New Zealand to alter its position.

”As with all drugs and the assessment of their costs and benefits, it’s important that regulators consider the widest possible range of research and information. This study should be placed in that context.”

”New Zealand will continue to monitor literature on this subject and the considerations of other regulators,” he said.

The review has been widely covered by international outlets such as BBC, FOX, and CBC. New Zealand examples include:

TVNZ News: ‘Tamiflu doesn’t work’ – researcher  ||  Otago Daily Times: Suppressed Tamiflu research telling
NZ City News: Tamiflu may not help flu sufferers ||  NZ Doctor: Tamiflu & Relenza: how effective are they?
Stuff.co.nz: Study casts doubt on Tamiflu value  ||  MSN NZ News: Review raises questions about Tamiflu
Radio NZ: Ministry defends stockpiling flu drug  ||  NZ Herald: UK scientists slam flu drug in ongoing debate
3 News: Tamiflu ‘little use’ in treating influenza – study