Remember the 2005 bird flu and 2009 swine flu outbreaks? The life-threatening viruses threatened to explode at pandemic proportions across the globe before sliding out of public consciousness as the threat died down. But worries concerning the illnesses have been re-ignited, after the effectiveness of the UK's £560m flu drug stockpile has been called into question.
£424 million was spent hoarding swine flu drug Tamiflu, while £136 million was spent on Relenza, thought to be effective against avian flu. However, independent research from the Cochrane Collaboration, a group of scientists that explore the effectiveness of medicines, has found that neither drug could prevent a pandemic, and could possible cause psychiatric and kidney problems. Tamiflu may have been able to reduce the length of an infection by just half a day in adults, but its effectiveness was very questionable in children. The report comes at the end of a four year fight by the research group to gain access to the data of medical trails surrounding each drug.
The report by the Cochrane Collaboration has itself been met with some skepticism however. During the swine flu outbreak, the Government's pro-active approach to stockpiling Tamiflu was politically understandable, given the supporting data at the time. Others have stated that the methodology of the initial medical trials that the Cochrane Collaboration based its report on itself may have been flawed, with experts arguing that patients were given drugs too late into an infection for the medicine to be effective. A study into 30,000 patients published in the Lancet painted Tamiflu in a positive light recently, suggesting that it saved lives. [Guardian]
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