New Delhi, December 17:seltamivir, better known as Tamiflu or Fluvir, if taken within 48 hours, is the only drug that can treat swine flu or H1n1 pandemic flu in the initial stages. But a new study published in British Medical Journal shows there is no data to show whether it works in patients who have developed complications, such as severe respiratory infections. Without such evidence, no drug can be used for a public health emergency like a global pandemic. The study says that drugs like aspirin may actually be better to treat swine flu.
The study says, ’since August 2009, our team has tried to obtain the data needed to verify claims that Oseltamivir lowers serious complications of influenza such as pneumonia. We failed, but in failing discovered that the public evidence base for this global public health drug is fragmented, inconsistent, and contradictory. We are no longer sure that Oseltamivir offers a therapeutic and public health policy advantage over cheap, over the counter drugs such as aspirin.’
The report points out that so far no safety and efficacy trials have been done for Tamiflu. It raises questions whether such a drug can be used in such large numbers to manage pandemics.
"So far Oseltamivir is of not much help in the advanced stages of the infection. So there is really no need to give the drug if not given early enough," Dr H P S Sachdeva, Senior Consultant, Sitaram Bhartiya Research Institute.
A Japanese scientist, Keiji Hayashi first raised the red flag when he said data on Tamiflu’s efficacy in severe cases was based on eight unpublished trials, which were unverifiable. None of the data had been peer reviewed. In fact, most people associated with the trials are linked to the pharmaceutical industry.
Drugs used in a public health emergency like a pandemic must be backed by evidence of the highest quality, which is publicly available and open to independent scrutiny, but Tamilfu does not pass this test.