Updated Review: Tamiflu Is a Bust

After finally getting their hands on full clinical study reports, independent reviewers say the antiviral drug is ineffective.

By | April 10, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, ANDREW WALESGovernments have spent billions of dollars stockpiling the antiviral medication Tamiflu. Earlier reviews of the drug called into question just how effective it was, and the latest analysis, published today (April 10) in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), concludes that the money has been going “down the drain.”

An international team found that while Tamiflu might reduce the duration of flu symptoms by half a day, there’s no evidence that it reduces hospital admissions or complications of an infection. On top of that, the antiviral’s side effects include nausea and vomiting. “There is no credible way these drugs could prevent a pandemic,” Carl Heneghan, one of authors of the review and a professor at Oxford University, told reporters.

The data for this most recent review came from full study reports—data generated by clinical trials that are usually not open for scrutiny by independent researchers. Efforts by the BMJ and the research team convinced drugmaker Roche, which markets Tamiflu, to release the reports.

Fiona Godlee, an editor at BMJ, said that the picture of Tamiflu was previously much more positive than after the full study reports were disclosed. “Why did no one else demand this level of scrutiny before spending such huge sums on one drug?” she said at a press briefing. “The whole story gives an extraordinary picture of the entrenched flaws in the current system of drug regulation and drug evaluation.”

Roche stands by the utility of Tamiflu. “We fundamentally disagree with the overall conclusions” of the review, the company told MedPage Today. And others have said that the results don’t necessitate an end to stockpiling the drug. Sabrina Spinosa of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approved the use of Tamiflu in 2002, told Nature that the agency had reviewed the same clinical trial reports. “The review does not raise any new concerns,” she said, adding that the EMA maintains its position on the risks and benefits of Tamiflu.


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Avatar of: Tom Weyand

Tom Weyand

Posts: 2

April 11, 2014

Here in the US we are saddled with high pharmaceutical costs but are told we are getting the value of regulated drugs.


This article sure puts to bed the validity of that position. Apparantly big pharma has its way with regulators and our Federal legislatures..


What a disgrace.

Avatar of: RationalTard


Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from Tom Weyand made on April 11, 2014

April 18, 2014

Here in the real world we always question and evaluate the validity of our conclusions. We like to ensure we aren't missing the point, raising red herrings, making hasty generalizations, or drawing weak analogies. Come on over, the grass is greener on the side of logic. Or you could continue to toil away in conspiratorial irrationality, your choice.

Avatar of: SeanD


Posts: 2

April 18, 2014

I had hoped The Scientist would read the paper rather than regurgitate the press release. The analysis at illustrates some deep flaws and is causing much comment - and has clearly upset BMJ and Cochrane!

Avatar of: Rigel2112


Posts: 1

Replied to a comment from RationalTard made on April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014

No making hast generalizations eh?   You didn't say where this greener grass is but Europe has it's own serious homeopathy and 'alternative medicine' problems:

Avatar of: lumo


Posts: 1

April 18, 2014

Prison. Hunt them down. Who lied, obfuscated and misled.

Send to prison, publisize widely and hope it doesn't happen again for another 3-4 years.

Oh BMJ, where did it all go wrong?

Avatar of: PhysicsPolice


Posts: 1

April 18, 2014

Tamiflu is not ineffective. The study concludes this its use "... as prophylaxis reduces the risk of developing symptomatic influenza." It's also effective at "reducing the time to alleviation of influenza symptoms." There is "no significant effect on hospitalisations", but that isn't the only reason people are prescribed and use Tamiflu.


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