© The Independent, UK
Pharmaceutical giants failed to disclose crucial data revealing concerns over their products Tamiflu and Relenza.
Britain has spent £600m on a stockpile of influenza drugs that are no better than paracetamol in relieving flu symptoms and are next to useless in preventing a pandemic, a major study has found.
The companies behind the two main anti-influenza drugs Tamiflu and Relenza held back crucial information that would have shown just how ineffective their drugs were in clinical trials, according to the independent scientists who compiled the report.
Their investigation found little or no evidence to support the manufacturers' claims about the effectiveness of the two drugs and questioned the Government's rationale for building up an emergency stockpile of 40 million doses.
The scientists also criticised the drug-regulatory authorities for failing to ask for the full details of the clinical trials to be released before giving their approval.
In a searing indictment of the opacity of the pharmaceuticals industry, the ineffectiveness of the drug-regulatory process and the gullibility of politicians and government scientific advisers, the report delivers an excoriating account of one of the biggest drug scandals of the century.
The main authors of the report, compiled by the respected Cochrane Collaboration of independent medical scientists, advised the Government not to buy any further stocks of Tamiflu or Relenza to replace those in the stockpile that are coming to the end of their shelf life. They also urged the World Health Organisation to reconsider its recommendation for national stockpiles to combat an influenza pandemic.
Details buried within the 175,000 pages of clinical trials data held by the drug companies revealed that the only benefit of the anti-flu drugs was that they shortened the period of symptoms by about half a day. However, symptom relief was not the reason for justifying an expensive stockpile by the Government.