If you’ve got a stockpile of Tamiflu, you’ve probably been swindled.
Tamiflu is the antiviral drug that supposedly shortens the duration of the flu. Over the past few years, many have stocked up on the drug during pandemic flu scares.
Among those many: the U.S. government.
The U.S. spent $2 billion on millions of Tamiflu doses in 2006. The European Union and a number of other countries did the same.
Now, a Tamiflu researcher and British Medical Journal (BMJ) editors say those countries should sue to get their money back.
That’s a bold plan. But I’m still mystified. Why is everyone ignoring the REAL scandal behind the Tamiflu controversy?
Elephant in the room
No doubt, this Tamiflu business stinks to high heaven. It’s beyond fishy.
As I’ve said before, two ghostwriters have admitted to writing several Tamiflu studies. They say they were instructed to embed a pro-Tamiflu message in their work.
This prompted Cochrane researchers to reopen their review of the clinical studies. But Roche, the maker of Tamiflu, refused to hand over all the trial data.
In a recent BMJ issue, editors began pressing Roche to deliver the complete data. Until they do, BMJ says there’s no evidence that Tamiflu actually works.
But there’s something else.
There’s an outrageous secret revealed in the Cochrane research. And it concerns a scandal I’ve been talking about for years.
MedPage Today reports that in many Tamiflu trials the placebo contained two unknown chemicals that weren’t in the Tamiflu capsules. Roche has refused to reveal the placebo contents.
Placebo control is the very essence of so-called “gold standard” research.
Now most of us think of placebos as harmless sugar pills. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the placebo is sometimes just a weaker version of the drug. (That’s how they get the placebo group to have all the same side effects.)
But here’s the kicker: drug companies create placebos for their own trials and don’t have to tell us what’s in them!
So there’s no actual “control” in placebo-control at all.
With the Tamiflu controversy, the BMJ has launched an open data campaign. It calls for independent scrutiny of clinical trial data. I hope this effort will go one better and insist on placebo transparency in ALL trials.
If the medical mainstream wants to keep calling placebo-control the “gold standard,” they have to address these secret recipes that are clearly anything and everything (except harmless).
Meanwhile, whether it works or not, Tamiflu comes with risks. Common side effects include nausea and vomiting. (Just like actual flu!) In kids, Tamiflu can cause seizures, confusion, and “abnormal behavior.”
But we have no way to know if Tamiflu researchers designed the placebo to mask even more side effects. What we do know is BMJ can’t find a compelling reason that you should take the risk.
“Tamiflu: the battle for secret drug data” British Medical Journal, Vol. 345, 10/29/12, bmj.com
“British Medical Journal says Roche’s Tamiflu won’t stop flu” Associated Press, 11/12/12, ap.org
“BMJ editor flogs Roche for Tamiflu data secrecy” Fierce Pharma, 10/31/12, fiercepharma.com