UK Government Laments Tamiflu Secrets

A parliamentary committee says drugmakers have not disclosed enough data on the anti-influenza medicine.

Jan 6, 2014
Kerry Grens

WIKIMEDIA, CATHERINEDespite the UK government stockpiling £424 million ($694.3 million) worth of the antiviral medication Tamiflu, doctors and researchers are unable tp make informed decisions about its use because of a lack of public data on the drug's safety and efficacy, according to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

Committee member Richard Bacon, who is a member of parliament, told the BBC: “The full results of clinical trials are being routinely and legally withheld from doctors and researchers by the manufacturers of medicines.” On top of that, the committee had “extreme concern” that positive trial results were more likely to be published than negative ones, Bacon said.

Members of a Cochrane Collaboration group tasked with analyzing clinical trial results of Tamiflu have long complained that Roche, which markets the drug, has withheld considerable data from public scrutiny. The parliamentary committee now agrees. Bacon told The Guardian that “the lack of transparency of clinical trial information on this drug to the wider research community is preventing proper discussion of this issue among professionals. We are disturbed by claims that regulators do not have access to all the available information.”

The European Medicines Agency has proposed requiring drug makers to submit more clinical trial data when they seek approval, and several pharmaceutical companies are voluntarily sharing more elaborate datasets. But advocates for transparency have been disappointed that clinical trial data are still largely in the hands of drug makers, rather than independent researchers.

Virginia Barbour, the medicine editorial director at PLOS, wrote in a blog post: “It’s ironic in the end though that it may take a Committee whose job it is to look at spending to point out what Health Departments seems to have been willing to ignore—that hiding clinical trial data is tremendously damaging to society, at an individual, professional and yes, even a financial level.”