Via CIDRAP, a March 19 report by Lisa Schnirring: Large study shows Tamiflu cut H1N1 pandemic deaths. Excerpt:
A major international effort to assess the impact of neuraminidase inhibitors during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic found that adults who were hospitalized were 25% less likely to die if they were given the drugs, with even better odds if they received it within 2 days of getting sick.
The research collaboration, formed in October 2011 and coordinated by a group at the University of Nottingham, included data from more than 29,000 patients in 38 countries. The team published its findings today in an early online edition of The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Use of neuraminidase inhibitors in treating severe flu infections has been based largely on the apparent beneits reported in observational studies. Because placebo-controlled studies during a pandemic wouldn't be ethical, the team believed that a major effort to pool data and uniformly adjust for treatment confounders would be the next best way to scientifically flesh out the impact of the drug.
The study was funded by Roche, the maker of Tamiflu. However, the team noted that the funder had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report. They also said Roche has not had and will never have access to the study data.
Jonathan Nguyen-Van-Tam, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and leader of the Health Protection Research Group at the University of Nottingham, said in a Lancet press release that many governments have Tamiflu stockpiles that are close to expiring and have no data on whether the drugs helped save lives during the pandemic, leaving them with little to guide decisions on replenishing their supplies.
He added that in a pandemic setting, a vaccine arrives 6 months too late, even in a best-case scenario. "Thus we are left with antivirals like Tamiflu and public health measures like hand washing and social distancing as the only defenses we have for the first 6 months of a pandemic."