The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) try to tell us we can get over the flu faster by taking the antiviral drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir). They say the drug helps reduce the severity of symptoms. And it stops the spread of the flu from person to person.
So, following this advice every fall and winter, many misguided doctors and hospitals dole out Tamiflu like candy. The U.S. government has actually spent $1.3 billion to stockpile the stuff…just in case we need it for a flu pandemic.
But two years ago, I warned you the drug suffers from over-promotion. I also alerted you that the drug manufacturer (Roche) was hiding the real and disturbing science from us. (Big pharma often hides data it doesn’t want the public to see. And I will give you more details about their underhanded tactics in an upcoming issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.)
Now, we finally have access to the whole truth. In fact, last month, independent researchers with the distinguished Cochrane Collaboration published a review of all the hidden evidence in the British Medical Journal. (Of course, it took researchers four full years to gain access to all the clinical study reports on Tamiflu.)
According to their review, Tamiflu does indeed shorten the duration of the flu–by a paltry 16 hours. (You might miss it in your sleep.)
But the drug didn’t lower a patient’s risk of suffering complications from the flu at all. In other words, it didn’t prevent the flu from turning into something worse, like bronchitis.
Nor did it prevent a patient from winding up with a costly and dangerous hospital stay any better than a placebo.
And it didn’t prevent the spread of the flu from person to person. (But, taxpayer, don’t worry–the U.S. government still has a $1.3 billion stockpile of it to protect against the never-to-be flu pandemic.) Unfortunately, the flu vaccine doesn’t prevent spread of the flu either.
What’s worse, patients who took Tamiflu actually suffered from more side effects, such as nausea and vomiting. It also increased their risk of headaches, kidney disorders, and psychiatric syndromes.
There is no doubt Roche has done very well from this lackluster, “blockbuster” drug. It has raked in $18 billion in sales since 1999. But Carl Heneghan, a University of Oxford professor and one of the Cochrane Collaboration researchers, said the study shows that money spent on Tamiflu and another lesser-known antiviral drug called Relenza, “has been thrown down the drain.”
Spending money on Tamiflu is a shameful waste for three main reasons:
No. 1: Thanks to the Cochrane Collaboration scientists, we now know the truth about Tamiflu: It just isn’t worth it. The drug only shortens the duration of the flu by 16 hours. (You can do that inexpensively and completely safely with natural treatments such as vitamin C, Echinacea and goldenseal.) It doesn’t reduce complications or hospitalizations. It doesn’t stop the spread of the flu. But it does cause more serious side effects.
No. 2: The flu virus just isn’t that contagious. At least compared to other viral illness. It goes away every year on its own. It has an extremely low contagion factor. So we certainly don’t need a $1.3 billion stockpile of a drug that’s supposed to (but doesn’t) stop its transmission.
No. 3: Using sensible personal hygiene and maintaining a strong immune system are the two best ways to prevent the flu. Plus, having a healthy immune system is the only way to really get over the flu faster. It’s ultimately the only real “cure” for any infectious disease. Including the flu.
In hindsight, the story of Tamiflu is just another example of big pharma greed. Of course, as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20. But if we’d been given all the data on Tamiflu prior to FDA approval, we wouldn’t be in this position.
Why do we keep learning about the shortcomings and dangers of drugs…after they hit the market?
The Cochrane Collaboration researchers said the current system of drug evaluation and regulation in this country is “deeply flawed.” And BMJ editor Fiona Godlee agrees.
She said, “The Cochrane review has made us aware of the very shaky ground on which clinical decisions have been made. We need the full data from clinical trials made available for all drugs in current use.”
I’ve been reporting about this major problem over the last two years in the Daily Dispatch. In fact, just last week I wrote about three dirty tricks big pharma likes to use. And hiding data is one of them.
Of course, big pharma isn’t the only one to blame in this Tamiflu story.
The government-industrial-medical complex misrepresents the dangers of the annual influenza virus. They make it seem like the human race is on the brink of extinction every year from the flu. And that’s just not true.
Of course, the lame stream media lends a hand in perpetuating the drama. It seems like almost every evening in the winter we hear about the dangers of the latest flu outbreak. And then they spout the same advice over and over again…
No. 1: Get the vaccine.
No. 2: Stock up on Tamiflu.
No. 3: You’d better hurry. Supplies may run out!
But the government’s own experts admit the flu vaccine doesn’t even work for those who need it most. Yet they still recommend it. And now we know Tamiflu doesn’t work either. But they keep telling us to go ahead and get both anyway.
So, as usual, everybody wins–except you, the patient, the consumer, and the taxpayer.
But there is no making sense of it from a medical or scientific standpoint.
I guess we should be thankful the British also speak English. Because we would never learn the truth from U.S. sources.
As one financial analyst at Citibank said, “Tamiflu was a nice little earner. It reflected opportunistic action by a multinational corporation, which was able to be a little bit sharper in its marketing practices than you could now, given the debates over the disclosure of clinical data and how effective the drug was.”
Citibank’s use of the term “opportunistic” is interesting. We usually reserve this term to describe a vicious infection. Not a drug that is supposed to treat it.
1. “Tamiflu: ‘a nice little earner’,” BMJ 2014;348:g2524
2. “Oseltamivir for influenza in adults and children: systematic review of clinical study reports and summary of regulatory comments,” 2014;348:g2545
3. “Study Questions Tamiflu’s Effectiveness Against Pandemics,” Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com) 4/9/2014