November 28, 2012. If you live in the western world and pay taxes, you’ve purchased more than your share of the anti-flu drug Tamiflu. And while you probably weren’t even aware that you paid for it, compliments of stockpiling governments around the world, you also probably weren’t told that there is no evidence Tamiflu even works. Now, a UK medical journal is suggesting the globe boycott and sue the drug’s manufacturer Roche until it makes public its data on the drug.
Some of the known side effects of Roche's anti-flu drug Tamiflu.
For years, conspiracy theorists, bloggers and anti-New World Order activists have been calling the prescription flu medication Tamiflu a scam. But now, independent medical journals and government health ministries are slowly, and reluctantly, coming to the same conclusion.
A product of Swiss drug maker Roche, Tamiflu became big news in 2005. Bird Flu, Swine Flu and a host of other animal diseases had somehow been mutated so that they could be transmitted to humans. In Asia, thousands reportedly died from these bizarre new strains of the common influenza virus. Populations panicked with the constant barrage of news coverage showing terrified Chinese and Japanese walking deserted streets with masks over their faces.
Little did anyone know at the time, but many of the same corporations profiting from the media’s terror campaign would soon be profiting from a rush to stockpile anti-flu drugs as a result. Now, billions of taxpayer dollars later, the medical community is confirming that not only is there no evidence that the most popular anti-flu drug in the world works, but also that the drug maker misled and hid all the crucial data needed to make an independent evaluation.
While there are numerous respected reports on the subject, the Center for Medical Consumers’ analysis released earlier this year summarizes the above conclusions in a complete and easy to follow article.
Goldmine in pandemic fears
In the mid-1990’s, drug makers like Roche (and Relenza maker GlaxoSmithKline) realized there were billions to be made by taking advantage of the global terror campaign over recent Bird Flu and Swine Flu outbreaks. Strangely, with the American media working the public into a frenzy of fear, the statistics didn’t back up the corporate propaganda effort. As detailed by a NY Times article from 2009, ‘since the CDC began tracking children’s flu deaths five year ago, the highest toll was 88, in the winter of 2007-2008.’
With many questioning the pandemic warnings, the CDC went so far as to insist that the number of flu fatalities among US children and teenagers as probably 3-times higher than the official count. Still, that would only bring the total deaths for 2009 to 300. With tens of thousands of American children being killed each year in auto accidents and by child predators, and many more killed by prescription drugs, does 300 deaths from the flu warrant giving tens of billions of dollars to a drug company for a an unproven drug to treat a pandemic that hasn’t, and probably won’t, happen?
For investors, promoters, marketers and government officials – many of whom made themselves rich in the process – the answer was yes.
In just one year, 2009, governments including the US began a frantic effort to stockpile millions of doses of Roche’s drug Tamiflu. Even at the time, many consumer advocates and independent medical associations criticized the decision saying that there was no evidence that Tamiflu actually worked. In fact, it was revealed that every single study done had been either performed by, or paid for by, Roche. Not one single independent study existed to back up the company’s claims.
The result - in the 3rd quarter of 2009, Roche’s sales of Tamiflu jumped 1000% versus the same quarter of the previous year. Company spokesmen had to go so far as to publicly raise their guidance regarding their stock price, almost doubling their estimates for 2010. Roche’s manufacturing facilities were running three shifts, 24 hours per day, making the drug for fear-stricken governments.
At the same time, the Tamiflu maker finalized its purchase of US drug maker Genentech. As detailed in a 2009 report in the Financial Times, Roche said it was using the stronger than expected profits from Tamiflu to pay the debt it incurred when it bought its American competitor.
UK goes after Roche and Tamiflu
Going into its fourth year in publicly challenging Tamiflu maker Roche to release its data on the effectiveness of the flu drug, BMJ – a leading British Medical Journal – took its fact-finding campaign to a new level. Doctors and researchers authoring the scathing BMJ report reminded the medical community that there is still no evidence the drug can fight the flu and went so far as to call for a boycott of the drug maker and a lawsuit to recoup the billions spent on the drug by governments the world over.
As detailed by Bloomberg Businessweek, other Tamiflu critics were quick to support the BMJ report. The publication points out, ‘the drug has been stockpiled by dozens of governments worldwide in case of a global flu outbreak and was widely used during the 2009 swine flu pandemic’. BMJ editor Fiona Godlee was quick to support the group’s report, writing, "Despite a public promise to release (internal company reports) for each (Tamiflu) trial...Roche has stonewalled."
One of the many skeptics of Roche’s claims, lead researcher Peter Gotzsche of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen wrote, “I suggest we boycott Roche’s products until they publish missing Tamiflu data.” Gotzsche’s words carry serious weight in the UK, where the government commissioned the Nordic Cochrane Centre to conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of Tamiflu. At the time, they found, ‘no proof that Tamiflu reduced the number of complications in people with influenza.’
Defending Roche and Tamiflu
Even with no evidence that Tamiflu has any effect on the flu virus or the often-accompanying pneumonia, various government health agencies and ministries are some of Roche’s most ferocious defenders. The largest – the World Health Organization – includes the drug on its list of ‘essential medicines’ that world governments often use as a guide for purchasing and stockpiling medicines. “We do have substantive evidence it can stop or hinder progression to severe disease like pneumonia,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl.
In the US, one of Tamiflu’s most influential promoters is the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC insists the drug ‘can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications and hospitalization’. As reported in a 2009 Washington Post article, even without the missing Roche clinical data, medical experts are slowly coming to a consensus on what Tamiflu actually does for flu-stricken patients, and it conflicts with the WHO and CDC statements.
According to various independent researchers, Tamiflu appears to shorten the duration of flu symptoms by an average of 21 hours – less than one day. Doctors and researchers point out that there is no evidence that the anti-flu drug actually fights the flu, or pneumonia or any other flu-related germs. Instead, if taken within 48 hours of the onset of influenza, the drug seems to only reduce the patient’s suffering on the last day of the illness.
The question those independent doctors are asking – is relieving their patient’s flu symptoms 21 hours sooner than they would otherwise clear up naturally, worth exposing these already-ill people to the side effects from taking the drug? And that gets to the other leg of critics’ complaints about Roche and Tamiflu. Accusing the drug company of cherry-picking its data to show positive results, they wonder what else the corporation is hiding, especially in regard to the drug’s side effects.