Tamiflu Testing – Publication Bias

20 Aug

Billions of dollars of Tamiflu had been stockpiled for the H1N1 2009 potential flu pandemic. The problem is that publication bias, like most “evidence based medicine” studies today, affected the Tamiflu test results. An explanation of the data so far disclosed, can be found here.

Ben Goldacre is a concerned doctor who prescribes drugs to treat his patients. He relies on his training and due diligence to research and study the efficacy of his prescriptions to establish confidence in his treatment programs. While uncovering information pertinent to one of his patients, he discovered some interesting information about how test results get published. Ben can be seen on TED discussing his research on the subject.


Ben points out that positive, or favorable test results are twice as likely to be published as unfavorable test results. “Unflattering” test results go unpublished. The bias is so well documented that it puts evidence based medicine at risk.

In the case of Tamiflu, you may ask, how effective is it? Well, as Roche refuses to release the data on its complete testing it is hard to say. An organization in the UK, called BMJ, maintains a website on the Tamiflu data where the following updates are found:

The (their) bottom line:

Perhaps it was decided to release a (possible) treatment for a (possible) H1N1 Flu pandemic than to have no prescription to offer at all. Many of the “stockpiles” of Tamiflu (2007-2009) expired on June 23, 2010.

The 2012-2013 Flu season recommendations can be found here, where it lists the schedule and dosages of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat all age groups.

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