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Uk Health Officials Threw Away £74M Of Bird Flu

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UK’s Department of Health threw away £74m worth of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug, before its expiry date, due to unsafe storage procedures. In total the country has spent £600 million since 2006 on drugs to fight a flu pandemic that has not materialized.

The figures, revealed by the National Audit Office (NAO), demonstrate a “shocking example of incompetence“, according to Public Accounts committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge.

Prompted by several public panics over possible avian flu pandemics in the mid-2000s, the UK government decided to create a national stockpile of Tamiflu (produced by Swiss company Roche) and Relenza (made by London-based GSK) – two relatively new and supposedly revolutionary drugs that neutralized the flu virus.

Between 2006 and 2013 40 million units of Tamiflu alone were purchased. A quarter of those had to be written off.

During the pandemic of swine flu (which turned out to be less deadly than the common variant) in 2009 and 2010 the Department of Health panic-bought up huge emergency supplies as governments competed with each other to secure the dwindling supply.

It did not possess the logistical and storage capacities, and distributed about 6.5 million units to the NHS. When the demand failed to appear, these had to be written off, as no one could guarantee that they had been preserved in appropriate conditions.

“There is simply no excuse for this waste,” Hodge told parliament.

More importantly, there are growing questions about the efficacy of the thirty million of the units that were used.

“Although Tamiflu speeds up recovery times, experts do not agree over its ability to reduce complications and hospitalizations,” said Hodge.

Roche had persistently refused to release data on more than a fraction of (successful) clinical trials of Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir), which has been on the market since 2002, until leading independent medical research independent research group Cochrane Collaboration started encouraging governments to sue the Swiss company. Roche finally relented, and promised to hand its research data to Cochrane last month.

The Department of Health promised to “consider the recommendations of the NAO” report, but stood by its anti-flu policies.

And not one instance of mea culpa from our idiot health minister, Jeremy k-Hunt, or any other cabinet minster.

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And not one instance of mea culpa from our idiot health minister, Jeremy k-Hunt, or any other cabinet minster.

Not defending Jeremy Hunt, but surely the the person in charge in 2009/10 when the panic buying was happening is more to blame when experts don't agree over the benefits? Reactionary politicians wilfully and wastefully spending forcibly extracted taxpayer money to show that they are "doing something". Or am I reading the article wrongly?

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Not defending Jeremy Hunt, but surely the the person in charge in 2009/10 when the panic buying was happening is more to blame when experts don't agree over the benefits? Reactionary politicians wilfully and wastefully spending forcibly extracted taxpayer money to show that they are "doing something". Or am I reading the article wrongly?

Sure, but who was behind the whipping up of public frenzy and fear of killer epidemics, that's what I'd like to know - quite a nice little earner for the pharma industry, given that there isn't even sound evidence for the efficacy of these massively expensive drugs.

EDIT - It will be interesting to see what the Cochrane Collaboration make of the data that Roche has finally (reluctantly) released following international pressure - an independent meta analysis will likely show the marginal efficacy that has long been suspected.

Edited by LC1

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Sure, but who was behind the whipping up of public frenzy and fear of killer epidemics, that's what I'd like to know - quite a nice little earner for the pharma industry, given that there isn't even sound evidence for the efficacy of these massively expensive drugs.

Well agreed, a very, very nice little earner for some!

In my Utopian fantasy world firstly the politicians would have a backbone to stand up to any frenzied mainstream media outlets using balanced and evidenced argument and secondly we would have an independently intelligent information seeking public. Ah, I see the problems there ...

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I have a medical qualification. Over 30 years ago I worked for the NHS. I was quite senior in my department.

In those days the NHS TOLD the drug companies what they would pay for drugs and supplies (take it or leave it)

as a result drugs were "affordable"

we were also inundated with "lunches and lectures" every Friday "on" the drug companies

This changed about the time I left

Now drug companies just make up the costs and the NHS pays it

....how does that work?

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I have a medical qualification. Over 30 years ago I worked for the NHS. I was quite senior in my department.

In those days the NHS TOLD the drug companies what they would pay for drugs and supplies (take it or leave it)

as a result drugs were "affordable"

we were also inundated with "lunches and lectures" every Friday "on" the drug companies

This changed about the time I left

Now drug companies just make up the costs and the NHS pays it

....how does that work?

Over nice cosy lunches in top restaurants and possibly a thick brown envelope or two exchanged under the table, I imagine...

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Apparently people are still supposed to report sights of dead birds - in fear of bird flu - so the scare hasn't gone away it's just not got widespread publicity now.

It seems a total waste of £74 million but there again it's free money taxpayers' money and it's so easy to just print up another batch.

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I have a medical qualification. Over 30 years ago I worked for the NHS. I was quite senior in my department.

In those days the NHS TOLD the drug companies what they would pay for drugs and supplies (take it or leave it)

There was far less demand then, and few of the "complex" sort of drugs we have now that took years to develop.

Ultimately, if the flu pandemic had become a problem, and we hadn't spent all that money on tamiflu, we would be lambasting them for not having bought and distributed the drugs.

20-20 hindsight is great isn't it.

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Ultimately, if the flu pandemic had become a problem, and we hadn't spent all that money on tamiflu, we would be lambasting them for not having bought and distributed the drugs.

20-20 hindsight is great isn't it.

But it wasn't a problem, and the science wasn't convincing that it was ever likely to be.... Why would they be lambasted for not having stocked up on expensive drugs that are of questionable efficacy?

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I can't comment on the efficacy of the drugs, and I don't doubt that there is some corruption involved. However if, say, there is a one-in-ten chance of a serious epidemic occurring, then it makes good sense to stock up with vaccine even though you know that it will most likely be wasted. You don't want to be caught out without vaccine when a serious epidemic does occur. As RTGP says, hindsight is a wonderful thing!

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Yes, to a point, of course that kind of reasoning is completely logical. It's like being sold insurance. At the time it seemed sensible, and the salesman was very persuasive, but in hindsight you realise that the risks were hyped up out of all proportion, and that the insurance policy probably wouldn't have paid out the promised amount anyway. Wouldn't you feel cheated?

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Yes, to a point, of course that kind of reasoning is completely logical. It's like being sold insurance. At the time it seemed sensible, and the salesman was very persuasive, but in hindsight you realise that the risks were hyped up out of all proportion, and that the insurance policy probably wouldn't have paid out the promised amount anyway. Wouldn't you feel cheated?

If that were so, then yes I would feel cheated. However, I'm not convinced that that is the case. Flu has killed millions in the past and could well do so again in the future, and science can only predict probabilities.

However, my main beef was with the main premise of the article and this thread, claiming that the disposal of vaccines in itself is some indication of wrongdoing or incompetence. That is simply illogical.

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Yes, to a point, of course that kind of reasoning is completely logical. It's like being sold insurance. At the time it seemed sensible, and the salesman was very persuasive, but in hindsight you realise that the risks were hyped up out of all proportion, and that the insurance policy probably wouldn't have paid out the promised amount anyway. Wouldn't you feel cheated?

I got some Tamiflu myself at the time. The arguments were NOT settled on effectiveness, and if there was a full pandemic I'd rather have had something to try to save me and my loved ones than sit there going "statistically, I am dying in the right".

I do think the gvts could have bargained for lower prices, but agree with what they did.

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But it wasn't a problem, and the science wasn't convincing that it was ever likely to be.... Why would they be lambasted for not having stocked up on expensive drugs that are of questionable efficacy?
Yes, to a point, of course that kind of reasoning is completely logical. It's like being sold insurance. At the time it seemed sensible, and the salesman was very persuasive, but in hindsight you realise that the risks were hyped up out of all proportion, and that the insurance policy probably wouldn't have paid out the promised amount anyway.
If that were so, then yes I would feel cheated. However, I'm not convinced that that is the case. Flu has killed millions in the past and could well do so again in the future, and science can only predict probabilities.

It is very unlikely that my house will burn down or be burgled. Insurance companies tell me in their TV adverts how thousands of houses get burgled each week. I know that if I have to claim they'll make me pay a large excess and probably not give me as much as my stuff was worth.

I still have home insurance.

This is because if my home was cleaned out or burnt down it would be financially devastating.

In the same way that if bird flu become an issue, it could have killed millions.

Remember, flu pandemics have happened before, and scientists agree, at some point, WILL happen again. It's just a matter of time.

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However, my main beef was with the main premise of the article and this thread, claiming that the disposal of vaccines in itself is some indication of wrongdoing or incompetence. That is simply illogical.

Stocking up on antivirals in the first place is the illogical bit, since viruses are continually mutating and therefore nobody can predict whether the antiviral will be effective....

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Stocking up on antivirals in the first place is the illogical bit, since viruses are continually mutating and therefore nobody can predict whether the antiviral will be effective....

You're right. Lets just announce that we are going to do nothing until it's too late and then just wait for everyone to die.

It's cheaper that way.

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Remember, flu pandemics have happened before, and scientists agree, at some point, WILL happen again. It's just a matter of time.

Yes, but this is kind of my point: that just because it will probably happen at some point, doesn't mean that it is sensible (or financially justifiable) to stock up on antiviral drugs that may not have much effect, or even be completely useless. There are no 'cures' for these viruses, only these antiviral drugs that are of questionable benefit....

My link

Why has Roche been refusing access to its clinical trials data on Tamiflu since 2009? i would hazard a guess that they aren't very conclusive of its efficacy over placebo.... ;)

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You're right. Lets just announce that we are going to do nothing until it's too late and then just wait for everyone to die.

It's cheaper that way.

:D

Feel the fear!

I'm not suggesting that nothing should be done. But costly medical interventions should be evidence-based. Should there be signs of a rising pandemic, then a massive educational and informational campaign could be undertaken to ensure everyone is aware of the symptoms to look out for and to ensure people with suspected flu should be kept in isolation as far as possible. Such options could prove to be more effective at halting the spread as those drugs would, and at a fraction of the cost. People dying of viruses is a fact of life, unfortunately. Those drugs probably don't alter that fact very much...

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Over nice cosy lunches in top restaurants and possibly a thick brown envelope or two exchanged under the table, I imagine...

....Whilst no doubt that went on I never saw or heard it. By lunches, they came to us with a boot full of very nice catering. No alcohol involved. Only freebee's were mugs and pens

The point I was trying to make is that since the NHS became Trusts or should I say businesses they seem to have totally lost both the plot and more importantly control. I am with UKIP who when questioned on BBC about their policies (or lack of them) asked which policy they wanted him to explain. The NHS was the reply. Oh easy - We would sack all the managers. Not replace them. Cut all the red tape.

All the money saved would go to doctors nurses and most importantly patients

....No idea who he was but I am sure some one else will

When I was in the NHS hospitals were run by a "matron" NOT 4 floors of admin staff. Canteens were full of white coats and uniforms NOT suits. Patients got ALL the treatment they required the day they came in NOT within 9 weeks.

Need I go on? (can if you want)

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  • 238 Brexit, House prices and Summer 2020

    1. 1. Including the effects Brexit, where do you think average UK house prices will be relative to now in June 2020?


      • down 5% +
      • down 2.5%
      • Even
      • up 2.5%
      • up 5%



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