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Review Questions Tamiflu's Effectiveness
Date:12/8/2009

Finds no proof the drug prevents flu complications such as pneumonia

TUESDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- No evidence exists that the widely used influenza drug Tamiflu prevents pneumonia or other complications in otherwise healthy patients who come down with the flu, a new review contends.

Claims about the effectiveness of the antiviral drug against flu-related complications have influenced governments worldwide to stockpile Tamiflu (oseltamivir) as part of their preparations for a global pandemic, the review authors said.

"Governments around the world have spent billions of [dollars] on a drug that the scientific community now finds itself unable to judge," said Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal, which published the article online Wednesday. The review was done by BMJ and Channel 4 News in Great Britain.

The authors of the new review, which updates a review published in 2006, analyzed 20 published clinical trials of Tamiflu that examined prevention, treatment and adverse reactions. However, the analysis was hampered by the "paucity of good data" available from the trial authors and Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, the study authors said.

This meant the review authors couldn't verify the results of eight important trials that were never fully published. These eight trials, which were included in the previous review, were omitted from the new review.

Based on the data available to them, the authors of the new review concluded they have "no confidence in claims that Tamiflu reduces the risk of complications of influenza in otherwise healthy adults," and said the drug should not be used in routine control of seasonal flu.

Because previous evidence about Tamiflu's effects on flu complications may be unreliable, governments should establish studies to monitor the safety of Tamiflu and other neuraminidase inhibitors, said review leader Chris Del Mar
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