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Questions over effectiveness of flu drugs

Researchers call for guidance on use of Tamiflu in light of most recent evidence about efficacy and side-effects.

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Tamiflu shortens symptoms of influenza by half a day, but there is no good evidence to support claims that it reduces admissions to hospital or complications of influenza according to an updated Cochrane evidence review published by The Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal.

Evidence from treatment trials confirms increased risk of suffering from nausea and vomiting. And when Tamiflu was used in prevention trials there was an increased risk of headaches, psychiatric disturbances and renal events.

Although when used as a preventative treatment, the drug can reduce the risk of people suffering symptomatic influenza, it is unproven that it can stop people carrying the influenza virus and spreading it to others.

The latest updated Cochrane Review is based on full internal reports of 20 Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and 26 Relenza (zanamivir) trials. These trials involved more than 24,000 people and the findings challenge the historical assumption that neuraminidase inhibitors are effective in combating influenza.

The evidence also suggests there are insufficient grounds to support the use of Tamiflu in preventing person-to-person spread of influenza. This raises further questions about the most effective way to support drug regulation and public health policy decision-making.

Claims about the effectiveness of Tamiflu against...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.