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Call for boycott of Roche in Tamiflu row

13th November 2012

A top medical researcher from Norway has called for a boycott of products made by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche until it releases previously unseen data on its influenza drug Tamiflu.

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Peter Gøtzsche, leader of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen, made the suggestion in response to a recent open letter to the company penned by Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal.

The BMJ is continuing a campaign to persuade the company to make public clinical trial data on the drug, which is being stockpiled by governments around the world for use in the event of an influenza pandemic.

Roche promised to make the data available nearly three years ago, but has still not allowed independent experts to look at it.

The company responded by rejecting the allegations in Godlee's letter, saying the company "does not accept or agree with the content of the letter regarding our transparency."

It said researchers at the Cochrane group had already had access to 3,200 pages of data that should answer their questions.

Further information had not been released because the researchers declined to sign a confidentiality agreement, the statement said.

The Cochrane researchers have said that such an agreement was never broached when they asked Roche for further data, countering that they have found "misleading statements" in Roche's response.

They also say that the European Medicines Agency, which regulates drugs across the EU, does not have a complete copy of all the clinical trial data.

But Roche said it had made full clinical data available to national health authorities.

Godlee and other campaigners met with UK health official Lord Howe this week to discuss missing data, EU clinical trials regulations, and the role of regulators.

The issue has also been raised by British MP Sarah Wollaston in parliament.

Gøtzsche also wanted to know why European governments had not sued Roche to get the money they had spent on stockpiling Tamiflu.

If it were really true that Tamiflu had dramatic effects in influenza cases, why had Roche withheld the data that would back up its claims, he asked.

He said a lawsuit by EU governments could force the company to publish the trial data.

His research team is currently trying to conduct the most rigorous, independent assessment of Tamiflu that is possible, and says it "remains interested in obtaining the full study reports" promised by Roche in December 2009.

It also wishes to view complete de-identified electronic patient level reports, the team said in a statement.

 

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