Friday, December 11, 2009

Follow the Money

Interesting article in The Atlantic about a recent study which questions the use of tamiflu for influenza treatment. Some of my public health colleagues are quite angry about it -- they worry that people who need tamiflu will now not take it. They suggested that we use the staff of The Atlantic as a placebo group in a study testing the drug. Personally, I think The Atlantic handled the topic well. The research does raise questions about the usefulness of the drug. I know a lot of physicians who don't like to use it (especially in children) because it can cause vomiting, which in turn can lead to dehydration, which in turn can lead to hospitalization. Speaking for myself, I began taking the drug within 12 hours of onset of influenza. I felt fine the first day, but the next morning I vomited for two hours and I stopped taking it. There have been reports out of Japan of neurological side effects in children.

This post is not to bash tamiflu, nor is it to discourage people from taking the drug who need it. I would rather step away from the efficacy of the drug itself and offer the question which I have blogged on in the past -- is government policy being driven by science or by politics? Big pharma made millions (billions?) off tamiflu. Big pharma made millions (billions?) off pandemic H1N1 vaccine.

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