Tamiflu (the antiviral drug oseltamivir) shortens symptoms of influenza by half a day, but there is no good evidence to support claims that it reduces admissions to hospital or complications of influenza. This is according to the updated Cochrane evidence review, published today by The Cochrane Collaboration, the independent, global healthcare research network, and the BMJ. Evidence from treatment trials confirms increased risk of suffering from nausea and vomiting. And when Tamiflu was used in prevention trials, there was an increased risk of headaches, psychiatric disturbances, and renal events. Although when used as a preventative treatment, the drug can reduce the risk of people suffering symptomatic influenza, it is unproven that it can stop people carrying the influenza virus and spreading it to others.
The latest updated Cochrane Review: Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults and children, is based on full internal reports of 20 Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and 26 Relenza (zanamivir) trials. The review clearly recommends that guidance on the use of both neuraminidase inhibitors (oseltamivir and zanamivir) in the prevention or treatment of influenza should be revised to take account of the evidence of small benefit and increased risk of harms.
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We cannot afford to waste public money on ineffective treatments.
- Professor Carl Heneghan, Director, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford