Tamiflu, Relenza Data Show Little Clinical Benefit Against Flu — Physician’s First Watch

Medical News |
April 10, 2014

Tamiflu, Relenza Data Show Little Clinical Benefit Against Flu

By Joe Elia

The neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) have only marginal benefits in the treatment and prevention of influenza, a series of BMJ articles concludes.

Investigators reviewed documents submitted to regulatory agencies concerning both drugs.

Tamiflu data showed it reduced symptom duration by roughly 17 hours but made no difference in hospital admissions or rates of carefully defined pneumonia. Tamiflu increased nausea and vomiting. As prophylaxis, it greatly reduced symptomatic (but not asymptomatic) cases.

The Relenza analysis similarly showed a modest reduction in symptom duration (14 hours) and no effect on pneumonia. As prophylaxis, it acted like Tamiflu and had fewer side effects.

Editorialists observe that the analyses show "with greater clarity than ever" that the current system for drug regulation is broken. And one commented that, given these results, "it is difficult to conceive that many patients would actively seek treatment."

NEJM Journal Watch Infectious Diseases associate editor Stephen Baum wrote: "Clean out your medicine cabinet: these reviews call into question the drugs' efficacy and side effects, as well as the ways in which data were selectively used to promote them."

Reader Comments (3)

Dan Lancaster, MD Physician, Infectious Disease, retired

The anecdotal "evidence" cited above indicates why we have the greatest health system in the world.


I have seen them work dramatically (even with myself) when started very early, such as within hours of onset. It would be interesting to see data showing effectiveness relative to hour since onset. While working one night, I had acute flu sx, took tamiflu within the hour and was nearly well the following day. Maybe 47th hour is useless?

Unknown MD

Have clinically used this drug for many years and often see very dramatic, rapid and consistent reesponses. So true clinical results fly in the face of often useless/conflicting lab data. They should not be so proud of their results and instead concentrate on treating real patients.

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