Urgent review needed of use of antiviral flu drugs

20 March 2015

GP authors of the Cochrane review on antivirals for flu have written to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) urging them to carry out an urgent review of guidelines because of concerns the drugs could be causing more harm than good.

Co-author of the Cochrane review Carl Heneghan, Senior Tutor and professor of evidence-based medicine and a practicing GP, told Pulse, the industry publication for GPs, that he and lead author, Professor Tom Jefferson, a former GP and member of the Cochrane Review Group, were ‘perplexed’ that NICE was continuing to recommend use of antivirals for either treatment or prophylaxis.

Carl said: ‘We were perplexed. [We] have written a letter to David Haslam at NICE, asking them to clarify the situation because we can’t understand how they can give guidance if they are not prepared to look at the whole evidence base.’

Professor Heneghan added that the researchers were also very concerned to learn from GP leaders that PHE was continuing to advise prescription of Tamiflu, particularly for prevention in elderly nursing home patients, a setting in which their evidence had found the drugs do not offer any benefits and may cause harm.

Carl Heneghan said: ‘I cannot understand why [they have advised this]. I may write to PHE to ask, where is the evidence for what they are doing?

‘In a nursing home, there is no evidence there is any benefit – in fact the evidence is it causes harm.’

Read the full article in Pulse.