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Serious Concerns Surround Effectiveness of Tamiflu

Health

Tamiflu | Image by Stuart Monk, Shutterstock

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Texas is currently bracing for potentially one of the worst flu seasons in years while the top drug utilized by doctors for the deadly virus has come under renewed scrutiny in medical circles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly influenza “surveillance report,” Texas is in the midst of an extremely high activity level for highly contagious respiratory illness.

Dr. David Winter, with Baylor Scott & White Health, told local reporters in an interview, “We think this is going to be a bad year for the flu. We say that because there wasn’t hardly any flu last year. So, no natural immunity.”

Winter’s assessment echoes warnings made by the CDC that the “U.S. may see a harsh flu season after few to no cases were reported over the last two years.”

Texas health data support these assertions by health care professionals: 422 cases of influenza A and B were reported for the week ending October 1, while no cases were reported for the same period last year.

For most of the last two decades, the top drug of choice by medical professionals for fighting influenza has been Tamiflu, which works by inhibiting the virus’s ability to reproduce after it has infected a host.

Developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche, serious questions remain largely unanswered, or even ignored, about Tamiflu’s effectiveness, as well as the totality and severity of its side effects.

Yet despite this, health organizations and governments across the world continue to tout the drug.

For example, with the rise of bird flu in 2005 and swine flu four years later, nations across the globe began stockpiling the drug out of fear that new strains of the virus could cause deadly pandemics.

In the U.S. alone, then-president George W. Bush used emergency authorization to purchase $1 billion worth of two antiviral drugs, Relenza and Tamiflu, as part of a larger strategy to protect the nation from a potential influenza outbreak.

Soon after the drug was introduced, a meta-analysis was published in the medical journal Family Practice that looked at how well Tamiflu performed in reducing symptoms and the duration of illness.

The results were not impressive.

“We found that oseltamivir [Tamiflu] provides only a small reduction in the duration of symptoms, approximately 21 hours for patients in the ITT [Intention-to-treat] population presenting a mean of 24 hours after the onset of symptoms,” the study found.

Around the same time as this meta-analysis, another group of medical experts from the Cochrane Collaboration set about reexamining all available data on the effectiveness of Tamiflu.

After reviewing seven studies of patients hospitalized for flu who were given Tamiflu or a placebo as part of their treatment, the drug showed “no effect.”

In fact, when Tamiflu was originally submitted to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for approval in 1999, it was rejected by experts since Roche’s drug showed no impact on reducing mortality. However, FDA administrators overruled these advisors and approved the drug.

A decade later, an FDA spokesman told the British Medical Journal that clinical trials had “failed to demonstrate any significant differences in rates of hospitalization, complications, or mortality in patients receiving either Tamiflu or placebo.”

When you factor in a disturbing number of side effects, some psychiatric, the seemingly unchecked approval and distribution of the drug is troubling to some.

Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer wrote a scathing piece on Tamiflu in 2013 for The Atlantic.

Noting the drug’s proven lack of effectiveness and decrying the medical community’s eagerness to prescribe it as the first step in treatment, the authors framed the choice for patients this way: “In other words, go to your doctor, pay your money — and you’re just as likely to end up sick enough to require hospitalization, whether or not you take the drug.”           

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Robert
Robert
1 month ago

The reason there was no one that tested positive for the flu the last two years is because the Covid test will give a false positive for the flu…
It’s not like the virus just magically disappeared for two years…

Mary Ellen Bluntzer
Mary Ellen Bluntzer
1 month ago

Do you think this is the first time a drug company had done this? Come on…….