LONDON, April 14 (RIA Novosti) – San-Francisco-based pharmaceutical giant Genentech relied on incomplete evidence about its antiviral drug Tamiflu when selling it to government agencies worldwide, according to a report by the independent healthcare advocacy group Cochrane.
Cochrane said that Tamiflu showed great promise in reducing hospital admissions for the flu, as well as preventing complications such as pneumonia.
“However, the original evidence presented to government agencies around the world was incomplete,” according to the report released last week, which called on governments to review Tamiflu’s approval given recent evidence.
The worldwide use of Tamiflu boomed following the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. The news release stressed that the manufacturer's promotion of Tamiflu’s effectiveness as a means of reducing the number of hospitalizations for influenza complications has been a key reason government health agencies stockpiled the drug in preparation for a possible flu pandemic.
Drawing on the new evidence, Cochrane called for a thorough review of the stockpile of the drug.
“Along with the evidence of harms from the medication, it raises the question of whether global stockpiling of the drugs is still justifiable given the lack of reliable evidence to support the original claims of its benefits,” warned the report.
“Drug approval and use cannot be based on biased or missing information any longer. We risk too much in our population’s health and economy,” said members of the Cochrane Review Team, questioning whether unprecedented public spending on Tamiflu was at all sensible.
The US has spent more than $1.3 billion to build up a strategic reserve of Tamiflu, and the UK has bought a stock of 40 million doses for a total of £424 million, which now risks turning out to be money down the drain.
Cochrane is a not-for-profit organization focused on high-quality systematic reviews and research to encourage evidence-informed decision-making in healthcare, especially by government agencies. The research on Tamiflu was carried out jointly with the London-based international peer-reviewed medical journal BMJ.