The pooled analysis of data, involving more than
29,000 patients from 38 countries, was funded by the Swiss drugmaker
which hopes the findings will reassure governments about the value
of its flu drug following criticism from some doctors.
Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam of the University of Nottingham and
colleagues found that treatment with neuraminidase inhibitor drugs — principally Tamiflu — reduced the risk of death during the pandemic
by 19 percent compared with no treatment.
The greatest benefit was seen when treatment was started within two
days of symptoms developing, when the risk of death was halved, they
reported in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
The same survival benefit was evident in pregnant women and adults
in intensive care. However, the researchers observed no significant
mortality reduction in children.
Tamiflu has been approved by regulators worldwide and is stockpiled
by many governments in case of a global flu outbreak. Sales of the
drug hit close to $3 billion in 2009, due to the H1N1 swine flu
pandemic, although they have since declined.
The value of such stockpiles has since been fiercely debated, with
some researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit
group, claiming there is little evidence Tamiflu works.
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Cochrane has lobbied since 2009 for Roche to hand over all its data
from clinical trials of the medicine — something the company agreed
to do last year.
The row prompted a British parliamentary committee to criticize
government spending on Tamiflu in a report in January.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Stephen Powell)
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