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Roche under fire over flu drug

23rd November 2012

Drug manufacturer Roche has offered an “olive branch” to critics in a bid to end a row over its Tamiflu drug.

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While Tamiflu has been approved by regulators worldwide and stockpiled by many governments in case of a global outbreak, there is criticism among researchers who say there is little evidence that it works.

They have been lobbying the firm since 2009 to pressure it to make public data on clinical trials and some have called for a boycott of the company’s products.

To try to resolve the situation, Daniel Day, the company’s head of pharmaceuticals, has written to the Cochrane Collaboration – which is a non-profit group that reviews trial data to assess the value of drugs - offering to set up a multi-party advisory board to review all the Tamiflu data.

The aim is to allow experts from academia and private institutions to agree on what analyses were useful in assessing Tamiflu’s public health role.

O’Day said that would be an “appropriate, fair and transparent” way of handling the debate but stressed that complete transparency had to be balanced against the need to protect patient privacy, respect commercial sensitivity and ensure the scientific merit of any statistical analysis.

Roche said a key reason behind its decision to not hand over all of the data Cochrane had requested was because the organisation had declined to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Cochrane responded by accusing Roche of “stonewalling” and has received backing from the British Medical Journal in its campaign for greater transparency from the Swiss firm.

 

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