Dec. 18, 2009
Tamiflu? More Like Scamiflu: Tamiflu Should Not Be Used for Routine Control of Flu
Despite Record Sales, Research on Drug’s Effectiveness Is Incomplete
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tamiflu, the anti-flu drug being snapped up in record amounts, does not prevent serious complications from the flu and should not be used for routine control of the flu in healthy adults, Public Citizen said today.
In an article sent this week to online subscribers of www.WorstPills.org, Public Citizen called for an independent review of raw data from clinical trials funded by Tamiflu’s maker, Roche. The company has claimed that the drug dramatically reduced hospital admissions as well as bronchitis and pneumonia. But a recent investigation by the British Medical Journal and British TV Channel 4 concluded that such claims were meritless.
In the wake of widespread media coverage of the H1N1 virus, Tamiflu sales have skyrocketed. In October, 2.5 million prescriptions were filled in the U.S. compared to just 35,000 prescriptions in October 2008. For the past 12 months, 6.8 million prescriptions were written, compared with 4.3 million the previous 12 months.
“Tamiflu is being erroneously peddled as a panacea to flu,” said Sidney Wolfe, M.D., director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “In fact, no research exists to support this in healthy adults. At best, it can modestly reduce some minor flu systems in such people for a day.”
All of the clinical research conducted to determine the effectiveness of Tamiflu on healthy adults has been funded by the drug’s manufacturer, Roche. The British investigation involved a review of all published studies examining the effects of Tamiflu in preventing serious complications of the flu in otherwise healthy adults. The authors concluded that we “have no confidence in claims that [Tamiflu] reduces the risk of complications and hospital admission in people with influenza,” and they wrote that it should not be used in routine control of seasonal influenza. There was also concern about underreporting of side effects of the drug.
Although the data available were gathered before the H1N1 virus made its appearance, the results can probably be extrapolated to H1N1 because it is another variety of flu, Wolfe said.
The article, “Tamiflu? More Like Scamiflu,” is available free for seven days at www.WorstPills.org.