Fiona Godlee, BMJ’s editor, said the papers cast doubt not only on how safe and effective Tamiflu is, but on the drug regulatory system that approved it. “Governments around the world have spent billions of pounds (dollars) on a drug that the scientific community now finds itself unable to judge,” she said in a statement.
But the World Health Organization disagreed. They said data from countries around the world show that when given early, Tamiflu can reduce the severity of swine flu symptoms, though the agency recommends the drug be saved for people at risk of complications, like pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with underlying medical problems.
“This will not change our (Tamiflu) guidelines,” said Charles Penn, a WHO antivirals expert. Penn said that while past studies show Tamiflu only has a modest benefit, when patients with severe illness or at risk of complications are treated early, there are fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
Both the British researchers and WHO said there is little evidence to support the widespread use of Tamiflu in otherwise healthy people — precisely the policy Britain has adopted to fight swine flu.
In addition to recommending Tamiflu be saved for at-risk groups, WHO recommends Tamiflu only be used on a doctor’s recommendation.
In Britain, however, Tamiflu is regularly dispensed to healthy people who catch the flu. The drug is given out via a national swine flu hotline by call center workers with no medical training. [Assoc. Press/FoxNews]