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Report Questions Effectiveness of Flu Meds

'Hidden' trial data reveals that some Tamiflu claims were unfounded, researchers say

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The United States has spent more than $1.3 billion building a reserve supply of antivirals, according to published reports.

"We need better antivirals, including combination antiviral treatments, but right now this is all we have got," said Dr. Tim Uyeki of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's flu division, according to an NBC News report.

"CDC recommends early antiviral treatment as soon as possible for any hospitalized patient with suspected or confirmed influenza," he added. "The number of observational studies suggesting the benefit of early antiviral treatment in hospitalized patients keeps growing."

Concerned about the safety and effectiveness of flu antivirals, Cochrane fought to get more information on the trials and studies behind these drugs. The new study is based on reports from Tamiflu maker Roche; GlaxoSmithKline, which makes Relenza; and the European Medicines Agency, the drug regulatory agency for the European Union.

In a statement reported by the Economic Voice, Roche said it "fundamentally disagrees" with the Cochrane report's conclusions. "We firmly stand by the quality and integrity of our data, reflected in decisions reached by 100 medicines regulators across the world and subsequent real-world evidence demonstrating that Tamiflu is an effective medicine in the treatment and prevention of influenza," the statement said.

Cochrane's Tovey said the recent information "shows the importance of ensuring that trial data are transparent and accessible."

Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the BMJ, went further.

"This review is the result of many years of struggles to access and use trial data, which was previously unpublished and even hidden from view.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use drugs, particularly when on a mass scale, must be based on a complete picture of the evidence, both published and unpublished," Godlee said in the news release. "We need the full data from clinical trials made available for all drugs in current use."

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