ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Researchers have reportedly found that millions of dollars are wasted on flu drugs whose effectiveness is in doubt.

Reviews were done on the drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. Scientists found that although these drugs can cut the flu by about a half of day, there was no good evidence to claim they can cut down on hospital admissions or lessen complications of the disease, Reuters reports.

“There is no credible way these drugs could prevent a pandemic,” Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based medicine at Britain’s Oxford University and one of the lead researchers in the study, told Reuters.

The researchers wanted to find if medicines had any beneficial effects.

“Remember, the idea of a drug is that the benefits should exceed the harm,” Heneghan added. “So if you can’t find any benefits, that accentuates the harms.”

Sales of Tamiflu hit almost $3 billion in 2009, but have declined since. The drug is approved and is usually stockpiled in preparation of a potential global flu outbreak. It is also on the World Health Organization’s “essential medicines” list.

Heneghan and his team analyzed data from 20 trials of Tamiflu and from 26 trials of Relenza.

Heneghan believes the money spent on stockpiling these drugs have “been thrown down the drain.”

“The original evidence presented to government agencies around the world was incomplete,” Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, told Reuters about Tamiflu. “And when they eventually received the full information on these drugs, the complete evidence gives a very much less positive picture.”

Researchers found that there was no evidence of a reduction in hospitalizations or in flu complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, or ear infections in adults or children. They also found that Tamiflu increased the risk of nausea and vomiting in adults by almost 4 percent and in children by almost 5 percent.

“Why did no-one else demand this level of scrutiny before spending such huge sums on one drug?” Wendy Barclay, a flu expert at Imperial College London has no ties to either the study or the drugs, told Reuters. “The whole story gives an extraordinary picture of the entrenched flaws in the current system of drug regulation and drug evaluation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that vaccination efforts continue as long as flu viruses are spreading and that flu antiviral drugs are a second line of defense to treat flu illness.


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