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A story about strange Tamiflu data

Recently some interesting information was revealed during the Cochrane investigation in to the efficacy of the Tamiflu vaccine provided by Roche.

The whole story started some time back when the Cochrane Collaboration, a professional organisation that looks carefully to see if medical intervention actually works, was preparing to to do a systematic review to see if Tamiflu was an effective treatment for the flu virus. What was in fact revealed was that some important clinical trial data about Tamiflu had not been published. Furthermore, there was concern on obtaining this data from Roche.

The situation has continued and it seems the Cochrane investigators and Roche have not reached any agreement in this matter. In fact, neither side seems to be willing to share information with the other to make any productive headway. The story runs deeper in that Roche was prepared to make the data available to the Cochrane group under a confidentiality agreement, however Cochrane refused. Although Roche should not ask for this – equally it should not be refused by the Cochrane investigators.

In the end, the results were revealed on a website so that they were made available to the Cochrane investigators, yet much of the reports remain a closely guarded secret. In a statement, Roche promised a full set of study reports but have to date never published this – even in a secure website environment. Attempts to get a password to download the information have repeatedly failed.

The authors of the Cochrane review do not report which part of this process led to exclusions of papers. They merely tell us that there was insufficient information to include the studies. So we are still none the wiser about what information is missing.

But the data on Tamiflu are far more available than on many drugs. While it’s disappointing that many of the Tamiflu trials remain unpublished in peer-reviewed journals, that situation is certainly not unique to Tamiflu.

But still, you have to admit that the Tamiflu story is all rather odd!

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13th May

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