Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tamiflu - a con from day one

So, it turns out that Tamiflu does virtually nothing to prevent or alleviate swine flu. This is another kick in the teeth for taxpayers around the world, but especially in Britain where the hysterical scare tactics of Liam Donaldson et al. led to a colossal waste of money. Having spent £500 million on Tamiflu, only a fraction was ever used and large quantities had to be thrown away because the inept NHS didn't know how to store it. The New Zealand government recently threw away nearly 1.5 million doses of the stuff. Only 55,000 were ever used.

The fact that Tamiflu doesn't really work is just another chapter in the swine flu farce, but the real point is that it should never have been stockpiled in the first place, whether efficacious or not. It's easy to be wise with hindsight, but it was clear very early on that swine flu was not particularly contagious and was very unlikely to be lethal. This could be concluded within days of it emerging in Mexico City - one of the world's most crowded cities - and it was crystal clear by the time the flu season descended on the Southern Hemisphere.

It's difficult now to recall quite how hysterical the government, advised by Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson, became in 2008-09. As I wrote in 2010...
Donaldson described swine flu as the "biggest challenge [to the NHS] in a generation" and predicted that a third of the UK population would come down with the virus in the winter. In an act of near-insanity, the British government ordered 110 million doses of the swine flu vaccine Tamiflu, the Department of Health ordered 32 million face masks and the Home Office made plans to dig mass graves.

In the event—despite the coldest winter for 30 years—there were fewer deaths than in the average flu season. The final death toll was 450—0.7% of the 65,000 predicted in Donaldson's worst-case scenario. Of these 450 deaths, only 70 could be solely attributed to swine flu.

Like all disciples of the precautionary principle, Donaldson could attribute the low death toll to his own policies. But there were even fewer deaths in Poland, whose government did not buy a single dose of Tamiflu.

In truth, it was obvious within a week of the initial outbreak that swine flu was not going to be a major killer. If it was going to slay millions, it would have done so in crowded and poverty-stricken Mexico City, where the scare began. Clearly, this was a fairly contagious but not very potent disease. Swine flu single-handedly brought the phrase "chronic underlying health problems" into the popular lexicon, as they seemed to be a prerequisite for any swine flu-related death. The chance of dying from the disease once you contracted it was 0.0001%.

As Paul Flynn - with whom I disagree about nearly everything, but who has followed this story doggedly and admirably - notes...

The Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control found that 5.4 million swine flu jabs saved 6 lives in Sweden.

60% of the Swedish population was vaccinated in 2009.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) found Sweden had a death rate of 0.31 fatalities per 100,000 people after the pandemic.

In Germany, where only eight percent of the population was vaccinated, the fatality figures were the same.

In Poland, the death rate was only 0.47 per 100,000. They spent next to nothing on vaccines. UK spent £1.2 billion. Our equivalent death rate was double, 0.74.

There are questions that need answering, not only about how Tamiflu was presented as being more efficacious than it is but about how the swine flu scare was harnessed to sell it in vast quantities to gullible governments. Big Pharma and the WHO are both culpable. The latter changed the definition of a pandemic in May 2009 in a way that was very convenient for manufacturers of Tamiflu and the whole organisation is rife with people who have serious competing interests.

Donaldson himself has since got himself a job at the WHO as well as a job at a lobbying company that represents pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps, as Longrider says, "we, the taxpayers, should be knocking on Donaldson’s door demanding our money back?"


nisakiman said...

And the 'experts' in the DoH who presided over this debacle are the same 'experts' who have been persecuting 20% of the population for the past couple of decades on the basis of flawed epidemiology and hyperbolic claims.

They should all be sacked and their politically driven policies dismantled immediately. They perform no useful purpose - quite the reverse, in fact; they are a liability.

nisakiman said...

Off topic, but here's one that might interest you, Chris:

E-Cigs Alter Cells a Lot Like Tobacco Does

A new cancer study brings more bad news to the e-cigarette industry. Scientists exposed human bronchial cells to e-cig vapor and found that it altered the cells in a way not dissimilar to tobacco.

Looks like they're ramping up the hyperbole ready for an all-out attack on e-cigs.

Well, it looks like smoking. Innit?

J Johnson said...

I think the history of Tamiflu is interesting.Not because of how it allegedly works but because of who owns the stock and the allegations of insider trading.

daveatherton said...

On the H1N1 "pandemic" comment from the BMJ.

“Key scientists advising the World Health Organization on planning for an influenza pandemic had done paid work for pharmaceutical firms that stood to gain from the guidance they were preparing. These conflicts of interest have never been publicly disclosed by WHO, and WHO has dismissed inquiries into its handling of the A/H1N1 pandemic as “conspiracy theories.”

More here.