April 10 - Researchers who have fought for years to get full data on Roche's flu medicine Tamiflu say governments who stockpile it are wasting billions of dollars on a drug whose effectiveness is in doubt. Sonia Legg reports on the impact the row could have.
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Sales of Tamiflu hit almost $3 billion in 2009 thanks to its use in the H1N1 flu pandemic.
Roche's drug was approved by regulators worldwide and stockpiled in preparation for a potential global flu outbreak.
Five years on there are claims governments have wasted billions of dollars.
Analysis of drugs trial data suggests Tamiflu - and to a lesser extent GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza - have few beneficial effects and could even harm users.
Dr Tom Jefferson is from the Cochrane Collaboration which carried out the review.
(SOUNDBITE) (English): DR TOM JEFFERSON, COCHRANE COLLABORATION, SAYING:
"Use in pandemics is for two things - to stop or slow down the viral spread and to address complications such as pneumonia, and other complications of influenza. We have shown that there is not good evidence of either."
The British government has spent $700m on a stockpile of some 40 million Tamiflu doses.
While the U.S. has spent $1.3 billion on anti-virals - of which Tamiflu is one.
It's also on the World Health Organisation's essential medicines list.
The British Medical Journal spear-headed a four-year campaign to force Roche to reveal its Tamilfu data.
Editor-in-Chief Fiona Godlee says Roche hasn't performed well.
(SOUNDBITE) (English): FIONA GODLEE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, SAYING:
"They have not provided a clear picture of the use of their drug. They have a clear conflict of interest, they perform the studies and they provide the regulator with what the regulator asks for but they do not go out of their way to present the benefits in a reasonable fashion or to give us clear evidence on the harms."
But Roche says the researchers' findings are flawed and insists the drug is safe and effective.
Daniel Thurley is UK medical Director.
(SOUNDBITE) (English): DANIEL THURLEY, UK MEDICAL DITRECTOR ROCHE, SAYING:
"One hundred regulatory agencies around the world have looked at the Tamiflu data and are completely convinced that Tamiflu is an important medicine for the treatment and prevention of influenza."
To complicate matters further the European Medicines Agency - which approved the drug for sale in Europe - disputes claims it didn't see all the Tamiflu data.
It still believes the benefits outweigh the risks.
But Roche remains under fire and now the French competition authority has added to its problems.
It's investigating claims the Swiss drugmaker colluded over prices for eye disease treatments with its rival Novartis.
Both companies deny anti-competitive practices.
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