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“Drugs-evaluating data is generally inadequate” – health journalist

Published time: December 13, 2009 13:12
Edited time: December 13, 2009 13:12

Governments worldwide may have wasted billions of dollars stockpiling an ineffective flu drug. A study published in the British Medical Journal has found no evidence that Tamiflu lowers the risk of flu complications.

Doctor Fiona Godlee, BMJ editor-in-chief, says this case shows that the entire system of drug evaluation needs radical reform.

“The research shows two main things: one is that drug seems to be less effective than was previously thought and that it doesn't seem to be clearly effective in reducing complications in healthy adults. It also shows that data available for evaluating drugs generally is inadequate, because drug companies hold on to data that needs to be publicly available,” Godlee said.

She stressed that “the fact that this particular case required detective work by journalists and academics with limited resources suggests that the current system really isn't working. So we do need to radically rethink the way drugs are being evaluated and that the data are made available.”

Watch RT's interview with Fiona Godlee

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In Ukraine, one of the countries hit the hardest by the swine flu virus, Tamiflu has already been at the center of the scandal.

When the epidemic broke out there, people were so scared by the death toll from the virus that they were sweeping all anti-flu medicine off pharmacy shelves.

In the wave of national hysteria, the Ukrainian government called for international help and soon more than 15 tons of the Tamiflu drug had been delivered to the country.

By that time the drug has already been used as a tool for profiting by some. Private drug stores sold the medicine at a price ten times higher that the original. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko called for strict legal action against the owners of the private pharmacies.

The latest figures show the death toll stands at 474 people, who died from different respiratory diseases and AH1N1.

Today the swine flu pandemic is not making headline news in Ukraine, and the quarantine, which had been in place for three weeks, has been lifted.

However, the World Health Organization reported that there could be a second wave of the pandemic in Ukraine, much more serious than the first.

The organization has created an environment of panic that leads people to take often dangerous treatments they don't actually need, believes freelance journalist William Engdahl speaking to RT.

“I must say that the alarm that the WHO is sounding over AH1N1 leading people to do really dangerous things such as taking antivirus drugs that have symptoms which can cause death, in the cases of Tamiflu, and especially in young children. I think they are trying to unnecessarily feed a sense of panic in the population that people demand Tamiflu from their doctors and demand all sorts of harmful medications. The pharmaceutical industry has been having a field day of profits over this swine flu scare,” Engdahl said.

Watch the live report from Ukraine with comments from Mr. Engdahl.

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The World Health Organization is actually benefiting from the AH1N1 hysteria, claims president of the Society for Evidence-based Medicine, Kirill Danishevsky.

“It is quite clear that the WHO benefits from the scandal, in terms of the political weight they get and in terms of the funding they get,” Danishevskiy told RT.

Moreover, there is no evidence that Tamiflu reduces complications of the disease, the scientist said.

Tamiflu may only help hospitalized patients with severe cases of swine flu by reducing the duration of the disease, Danishevskiy explained.

Watch the full interview with Mr. Danishevsky

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