The Tamiflu story
Winter is the season for colds and flu and with just under a month before the official start, I thought I would give you a quick summary of the drug, Tamiflu. You have almost certainly heard of it, a drug that was widely ‘promoted’ to fend off swine-flu in 2009. For those of you who need a refresher, the media breathlessly touted it as a treatment for ‘swine-flu’. Fear was everywhere and there were queues at pharmacies to buy it.
In 2009 our media ran sensational story after story about who was going to get the drug first in case of a pandemic; front line staff, doctors, health workers, politicians etc. – but not you or I. It retailed for between $60 and $80, if you had a prescription, but no problems if you didn’t, as it was soon available without one, just like lollies. Then there were the headlines, do you remember the media ‘body – counts’ here’s one…
‘Tamiflu more accessible, death toll still at 7…NZ Herald April 29, 2009’. Nothing like a death toll to create a ‘story with legs’, for those who don’t know what that means, it’s the media’s hold grail, a story that keeps getting repeated day after day – often with few modifications. Cheap journalism, I guess.
Before I get into the problem, I think the best place to start is by asking these few simple questions; when the media hype was at its greatest, did you think that Tamiflu would prevent you dying from the swine-flu? Did you think it would reduce your chances of getting really sick and being hospitalised? Or did you think it would save you a few hours of being ill with flu-like symptoms? (i.e. being uncomfortable but in no real danger)
If you’re like me, most of you would answer ‘yes’ to the first one. This drug was sold to us on the basis that it would stop us from dying if we got the flu. The method was simple, create fear via sensational stories in the news, provide the solution – a ‘wonder drug’ called Tamiflu and back it up with medical authorities and doctors (who we are indoctrinated to trust absolutely) making concerned statements on TV.
We were soundly conned.
When the Cochrane Group did their initial review of Tamiflu (the Cochrane Group is an independent group of scientists that reviews the literature and evidence for medical interventions) the scientist responsible was Dr Tom Jefferson, who, in 2006 looked at the data provided by Roche and concluded that the drug was effective. Then, a Japanese paediatrician called Keiji Hayashi placed a post on the Cochrane website; ‘You’ve summarised the data from all 10 papers, he explained, but your positive conclusion is really driven by data from just one of the papers you cite.’ The data came from an industry funded study by someone called ‘Kaiser’. This Kaiser paper ‘summarised’ the data from the unpublished studies, but drug company Roche (manufacturer of Tamiflu) has never allowed the raw data to be released for the world to see.
For those of you wondering why this is a big deal, this is how drug companies distort results and commit fraud. If independent scientists cannot review the raw data, and thereby assess the safety and efficacy of drugs then we have the take the drug companies’ word that they are telling the truth, quite frankly, that’s laughable. Read this article on the top recent drug company fines for fraud and dishonesty if you need a refresher.
Here are some facts about Tamiflu;
1. People took the drug to reduce the chance of life threatening ‘complications’ (a euphemism for pneumonia and death) from swine flu, but there was no published evidence that it could do this, at best it may reduce the length of illness of people who have influenza by a few hours. Most people prescribed this drug do not even have influenza.
2. According to the editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, it is likely that the benefits of the drug are overstated and adverse events understated.
3. Manufacturer Roche agreed on multiple occasions to hand over all the data but kept reneging, excuse after excuse. Data from eight of the ten studies have never been released.
4. There is widespread belief that the unreleased data contains evidence of severe ‘adverse events’. Those adverse events that have been reported include deaths in children, serious skin reactions, and neuropsychiatric events – including suicide.
Here was a drug that the whole world was scared into buying with taxpayer dollars. New Zealand bought 800,000 doses at what cost? The UK paid billions of pounds, and the USA billions of dollars. Our medical authorities and regulators jumped on the bandwagon and touted it for all it was worth. We then find out a handful of years later that there is no evidence available at all that it either reduced ‘complications’ (pneumonia and death) or the spread of the flu, and yet these were the reasons the world stockpiled the drug.
If you are wondering why our authorities and global authorities have done nothing, well, it’s a world where conflicts of interest abound. It was the WHO (World Health Organisation) that declared the flu ‘pandemic’ in 2009 that sparked massive stockpiling of Tamiflu in New Zealand and across the globe. Later in 2009 an investigation into conflicts of interest within the WHO revealed links between those who created the planning guidelines for the flu ‘pandemic’ and Roche. The WHO has it on their list of ‘essential medicines’.
There are calls by the British Medical Journal for Roche to do what it promised to do, and hand over the evidence to back up the claims the world spent billions on – and there are calls in Europe to sue Roche.
We have been fully indoctrinated into believing that pharmaceutical drugs are the ‘gold standard’ of evidence based medicine, but this is simply not true. Drug companies are the most fraudulent companies in the world. They are the tobacco companies of our times. We blindly trust our medical authorities and our media who (I believe) have agendas that have little to do with accurately informing the public about serious health matters. I also know from personal experience they are reluctant to publish negative stories about drug companies and I believe this likely has a lot to do with preserving advertising revenue. Your GP often has no idea whether the drugs work or are safe, because they have also been indoctrinated and are equally in the dark.
I reached a conclusion a long time ago. If a drug company representative is saying something, all you can know for sure is that you are being misled. In the case of Tamiflu we are left asking, where is the accountability for the colossal waste of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money? Why has there not been a Royal Commission? Are drug companies simply above the law?
Daniel King MSc