Friday, 11 December 2009

Tamiflu - will our Government get the taxpayers money back?


"This week, the British medical journal BMJ published a multi-part investigation that confirms that the scientific evidence just isn’t there to show that Tamiflu prevents serious complications, hospitalization, or death in people that have the flu. The BMJ goes further to suggest that Roche, the Swiss company that manufactures and markets Tamiflu, may have misled governments and physicians ................

Nancy Cox, who heads the US Centre for Disease Control’s flu program, told us earlier this year she opposes a placebo-controlled study (in which one half of patients would be given Tamiflu and the other half would be given placebo), because the drug’s benefits are already proven. [Comment: Oops! Take a look again at those "not-independent" tests, Nancy]

There are a couple of take-home messages here. One is pretty obvious: Tamiflu may not be doing much good for patients with the flu who take it, and it might be causing harm. The more important issue, however, involves the need for trust in science and medicine. Governments, public health agencies, and international bodies such as the World Health Organization, have all based their decisions to recommend and stockpile Tamiflu on studies that had seemed independent, but had in fact been funded by the company and were authored almost entirely by Roche employees or paid academic consultants. So did the Cochrane Collaboration, at least in its earlier assessments of Tamiflu. Millions of flu patients have taken the drug as a result.

That trust appears to have been misplaced, and a drug touted as beneficial on the basis of flimsy evidence has by now become so entrenched that no one appears willing to conduct the sort of study needed to prove whether or not it can, in fact, save lives."

And, to remind us, from

* CLAIM: "Do you know who bought the patent for Tamiflu from ROCHE LABORATORIES in 1996? GILEAD SCIENCES INC."

GARBLED. Gilead Sciences, Inc. discovered Tamiflu in the early 1990s and still holds the patent. Gilead licensed development and marketing rights to Roche in 1996.
* CLAIM: "Do you know who was the then president of GILEAD SCIENCES INC. and remains a major shareholder? DONALD RUMSFELD, the present Secretary of Defence of the USA."

TRUE. According to Fortune magazine, Rumsfeld was Gilead's chairman from 1997 to 2001. It's unknown exactly how many shares he still owns in the company, but the value of his holdings is estimated at between $5 million and $25 million.
* CLAIM: Sales of Tamiflu were over $254 million in 2004 and more than $1 billion in 2005?

ROUGHLY ACCURATE. According to Forbes magazine, Tamiflu sales totalled $258 million in 2004 and were projected to exceed $1 billion in 2005.

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