Tamiflugate blows open again in Parliament

Margaret Hodge web The public money spent on stockpiling the antiviral Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in 2009 has been described as “extremely worrying” by MP Margaret Hodge.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which Hodge chairs, will conduct a hearing into the £424m spent on Tamiflu during the influenza crisis.

The enquiry shows that despite Roche’s recent promise to release ‘redacted’ trial data to Cochrane researchers, the Tamiflugate scandal has not gone away.

Responding to information from the National Audit Office (NAO), Hodge commented that the decision to stockpile Tamiflu was questionable as NICE had been denied the clinical trial data it needed to make a decision.

The enquiry will question Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies and NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon among others.

According to the NAO, there is a “general consensus” that Tamiflu reduces the duration of flu symptoms, but not that it reduces hospitalisations or deaths.

Hodge said the decision to stockpile the Roche drug, given the limited evidence of its effectiveness, was “extremely worrying” – while the wastage of 6.5 million doses of Tamiflu (costing £7.4m) due to poor NHS record-keeping was “a shocking example of incompetence”.

The NAO recommended that “independent research” be commissioned in future to guide decisions over drug stockpiling.

It noted that NICE did not have the statutory power to demand data from manufacturers, so was at risk of making a poor decision in a crisis.

NICE should require manufacturers to confirm that the evidence they have submitted is complete, it said.

Roche has attempted to close Tamiflugate by offering ‘redacted’ clinical trial reports (with confidential commercial and patient data deleted).

However, Cochrane researcher Peter Gøtzsche has claimed the studies contain no confidential data and the condition is “smoke and mirrors”.