By Lizzie Bennett
The Cochrane Collaboration is a group of independent scientists and doctors who produce evidence based reports that are provided to healthcare decision makers around the world. They have come to the conclusion that Tamiflu and Relenza, the two drugs stockpiled for use in flu pandemics, are no better than acetaminophen for treating the condition.
The BMJ, British Medical Journal has backed Cochranes findings and they have issued a joint news release that you can read in full here. The statement makes it quite clear that Roche hid the results of drug trials. From the statement by Dr Fiona Godlee, Editor-in-Chief,BMJ:
“This review is the result of many years of struggles to access and use trial data, which was previously unpublished and even hidden from view. It highlights with certainty that future decisions to purchase and use drugs, particularly when on a mass scale, must be based on a complete picture of the evidence, both published and unpublished. We need the full data from clinical trials made available for all drugs in current use. With the new European Clinical Trials Directive bringing in rules for future drugs, it highlights the enormous challenge we face. We need the commitment of organisations and drug companies to make all data available, even if it means going back 20 years. Otherwise, we risk another knee-jerk reaction to a potential pandemic. And can we really afford it?” (my emphasis)
To put the study in a nutshell oseltamivir, Tamiflu, shortens the symptoms of influenza by a mere half a day and there is NO EVIDENCE at all that it reduces complications of influenza or hospitalizations from influenza.
In the UK alone $794m (£473m) has been spent stockpiling these drugs based on the information and research given out to governments worldwide by Roche. The Cochrane Collaboration, respected by the medical profession worldwide for their diligent approach and honest publication of results, both good and bad have found that Roche:
- Cherry picked which bits of data they were going to use and compiled this information into reports in order to sell the drug worldwide.
- Not only omitted data but actually buried it so deep it has taken years to dig out and look into.
- Conducted medical trials which were of very poor quality, and did not match the written reports of how the trials were conducted.
Roche is insistent that the Cochrane Collaboration and the BMJ used the ‘wrong’ data to conduct their research. They did not indicate why the data was wrong or what other data the team should have used.
The UK medical director of Roche, Dr Daniel Thurley said in a statement to the BBC:
“The definitive piece of research stands as the randomised control trials, which were shared with the regulators, which led to them in 100 countries around the world approving Tamiflu for treatment and prevention of flu.”
He said the Cochrane group had used the wrong statistics, which “systematically underestimate the benefits” of the drug, and used “unorthodox” methods to analyse the side-effects.
He concluded: “One of the challenges we have here is actually knowing what they’ve done.”
Well what they have done has been published for all to see and its simple. They have dug about, found all the data, rechecked all the statistics, broken the drug down to it’s components and studied every aspect of those components and they have come to the conclusion that Roche has marketed a drug that doesn’t perform as stated, and that has considerably more side effects that Roche stated. Those side effects include:
- psychiatric events
- kidney problems
On the claims that the drug prevented complications such as pneumonia Cochrane said:
“the trials were so poor there was no visible effect”.
The report found that in children the reduction of symptoms is better, reducing them by 29 hours on average which according to professor Wendy Barclay who studies influenza at Imperial College London, would be beneficial to some children particularly those with other medical problems.
Although the Collaboration researchers have not placed the blame on any individual or organisation, instead saying there had been failings at every step from the manufacturers to the regulators and government, it’s obvious that if the data is incorrect in the first place then all future steps right up to the procurement of the drug will be flawed.
You can be sure that Roche is not the only Big Pharma company that does this, and they will continue to do this until they are stopped by genuine research organizations, who have the best interests of the populace at heart, not the bank balance of pharmaceutical company directors.
You can read a selection of comments from top doctors and researchers here. These opinions are starting to come in from around the world and the vast majority of them totally agree with the Cochrane Collaboration, and have done for some time but have not had the evidence to back them up. Now they do.
About the author
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.