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Revista Cubana de Salud Pública

versión impresa ISSN 0864-3466


GERVAS, Juan. The Tamiflú/Relenza issue, the public health and some lessons for decision-making and ethics. Rev Cubana Salud Pública [online]. 2014, vol.40, n.4, pp.334-348. ISSN 0864-3466.

The "Spanish" flu of 1918 caused millions of deaths and is still present in the people's thought. That memory revived in 2005 with the onset of the aviarian influenza and in 2009 with the influenza A pandemic. As a response to these threats, it was encouraged to use antiviral drugs called Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) and governments spent millions of Euros to purchase them. However, the effectiveness of these antiviral drugs was called into question and the scientific and political pressures forced the pharmaceutical companies to share their raw data from the clinical trials of these two drugs. An independent analysis allowed concluding in 2014 that these antiviral drugs had modest effectiveness in releasing the symptoms, had no impact on complications and deaths, caused significant adverse effects and did not change the transmission-contagion relation. This paper analyzed the history of Tamiflu/Relenza and inferred the relevant ethical lessons that may be generalized to all public health crises, such as the erosion of the credit of medicine, of drugs, of clinical trials, of the authorities and of their decision-making process.

Palabras clave : flu; crises; public health; antiviral drugs; transparency.

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