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Effectiveness of Flu Drug Questioned

A Cochrane review of the effectiveness and side-effects of the drug Tamiflu raises critical questions around the future of government stockpiling of such drugs for use in an influenza pandemic.

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An earlier paper published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine suggests that, if patients were NOT on neuraminidase inhibitors (i.e. Tamiflu) there was a 9.2% death rate (959/10,431) but if they were given Tamiflu the death rate was slightly higher at 9.7% (1825/18,803). Yet the conclusion was the opposite of this. They concluded that neuraminidase inhibitors save lives.

Looking at comments on the Lancet paper in the BMJ (http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g2228/rr/692897), the statistics that were done to reach that conclusion likely have major methodological issues.

In contrast, the new Cochrane review says there is no evidence to show that Tamiflu saves lives based on studying a similar number of patients but with much better methodology, as the patients they included were part of controlled trials (even if Roche did not let the reviewers see all the data).

Professor Peter Collignon is an Infectious Diseases Physician and Microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, Associate Executive Director of ACT Pathology, and Professor of Medicine at the Australian National University.

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New data supports the need for greater government investment in influenza vaccine strategies and less investment in stockpiling of...

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