Receiving quite a bit of press yesterday, and rightfully so, the Cochrane Collaboration published their analysis of oseltamivir - the miracle influenza antiviral that (at great cost) is part of our nation's strategic stockpile for an influenza pandemic. The story is interesting both regarding what they found, and what they didn't find.
As for the data from the review, the numbers are similar to what we've been basing our practice upon - oseltamivir significantly shortens the length of time until symptom improvement from 160 hours to 139 hours. However, it did not demonstrate any difference in hospitalization rates. Additionally - whether through study bias or by direct medication effects - the oseltamivir groups were significantly less likely to have a confirmed diagnosis of influenza.
So, this suggests that it's a little troubling that we've gone to all the expense to stockpile this expensive medication that does not appear to reduce hospitalizations from influenza - and it remains an individual decision whether that extra day of symptom improvement is worth exposure to the side effects of the medication. But the reason this is national news is that Roche pharmaceuticals refused to supply the promised clinical data requested by the Cochrane Collaboration; the published analysis is based on 15 oseltamivir studies with complete information, and excludes 42 other studies with discrepancies in the data. This sort of behavior is just another representative sample of the unethical, but completely understandable, profit-motivation of pharmaceutical corporations protecting their financial interests.
I would be greatly surprised if the clinical data Roche is holding onto supports oseltamivir efficacy.
"Neuraminidase inhibitors for preventing and treating influenza in healthy adults and children - a review of clinical study reports"
"Flu Drugs: Search for evidence goes on"