Announcement Date: September 29, 2015
The piece draws several comments. Cochrane reviewer Jefferson points out McVernon’s attempts at blurring the Dobson authors’ conflicts of interest as well as her own. McVernon does not respond, despite two further reminders.
Controversies in medicine: the rise and fall of the challenge to Tamiflu
Associate Professor, Population Health, University of Melbourne
One of the biggest recent controversies in medicine involves the effectiveness – or otherwise – of the antiviral drug Tamiflu. Governments around the world have stockpiled the drug for use in severe influenza pandemics, but many have raised doubts about its effectiveness.
Influenza causes annual “seasonal” epidemics in temperate countries and circulates year-round in the tropics. Pandemics occur when there’s a relatively new flu virus containing components of bird or swine flu viruses, against which the human population has little protection.
Global pandemic preparedness efforts were spurred in the early 2000s by the emergence of SARS, and highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza in birds, which was associated with rare but often fatal infection in humans. The problem is that the severity of pandemics can vary markedly; from the Spanish flu of 1918-19, which is estimated to have killed 20-50 million people worldwide, to the much milder 2009 swine flu, which resulted in between 150,000 and 250,000 deaths (a similar number to the annual mortality of seasonal epidemics).