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Is Tamiflu worth it?

  Research published in the British Medical Journal says there is no public evidence that Tamiflu reduces complications associated with influenza. Researchers attempting to review data about the Roche produced drug — dubbed “our best line of defence” against swine flu by the British health secretary — found the Swiss laboratory wouldn’t permit public access ...

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Research published in the British Medical Journal says there is no public evidence that Tamiflu reduces complications associated with influenza. Researchers attempting to review data about the Roche produced drug -- dubbed "our best line of defence" against swine flu by the British health secretary -- found the Swiss laboratory wouldn't permit public access to the studies on the drugs.

Tamiflu might shorten influenza suffering by a day or so they said, based on information in the public domain, but it's not clear that chances of serious complications, like pneumonia, would be affected by Tamiflu. Such meager results mean it might not be worth confronting the side-effects, which include: "insomnia, nausea, bad dreams, abdominal pain, headache and a rare neuropsychiatric disease that caused some users to attempt to harm themselves."

 

Research published in the British Medical Journal says there is no public evidence that Tamiflu reduces complications associated with influenza. Researchers attempting to review data about the Roche produced drug — dubbed “our best line of defence” against swine flu by the British health secretary — found the Swiss laboratory wouldn’t permit public access to the studies on the drugs.

Tamiflu might shorten influenza suffering by a day or so they said, based on information in the public domain, but it’s not clear that chances of serious complications, like pneumonia, would be affected by Tamiflu. Such meager results mean it might not be worth confronting the side-effects, which include: “insomnia, nausea, bad dreams, abdominal pain, headache and a rare neuropsychiatric disease that caused some users to attempt to harm themselves.”

This is understandably a problem for the governments around the world who have stockpiled huge quantities of the drug to prescribe for H1N1, contributing to Roche’s estimated $2.65 billion in revenues this year from Tamiflu. In a very entertaining, but not too enlightening analogy, a Brit scientist tried to explain the situation policy makers now find themselves in when deciding to use the drug:

But I suppose that once you’ve gone and bought lots of doses, then it’s a bit like the situation with gun control in the US. If you have a gun in the house, it is much easier to use it. But it does not mean it’s the right thing to do.”

ANTONIO SCORZA/AFP/Getty Images

Jordana Timerman is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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