April 13, 2014
Flu is actually a pretty nasty disease. People say they’ve got “the flu” when they’ve really only got a cold, but a genuine bout of influenza knocks you off your feet for several days, and is a major killer in the elderly; an outbreak in 2011 killed around 600 people. But don’t worry! Since 2006, during the avian flu scare, the Government has spent £424 million stockpiling a drug called Tamiflu.
Unfortunately for the Government, and for elderly people, and for people who don’t want to spend a week in bed aching and sweating and vomiting, it seems that Tamiflu doesn’t work very well.
The Cochrane Library, the great centre for epidemiology and public health data, has carried out a huge meta-analysis, a study combining the data from dozens of smaller trials, into Tamiflu and another “neuraminidase inhibitor”, Relenza. Cochrane Reviews are hugely authoritative works, a sort of gold standard if you’ll forgive the cliché. And, five years after the UK and US began spending billions to buy millions upon millions of doses, the Cochrane Library has reported.
On average, flu symptoms last for seven days. With treatment with a neuraminidase inhibitor, they last, on average, for 6.3 days. Consider the front page held.