The lawyers who initiated a case against the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche said Monday that the corporation falsely claimed that Tamiflu, one of its highest-grossing products, could help limit a possible influenza pandemic by preventing virus transmission.
To verify his claims, Roche relied on a series of faulty scientific studies, sometimes written by ghost writers hired by Roche or people with close ties to the company, according to the lawsuit.
The drug became popular in recent years during outbreaks of bird flu, or bird flu, an infectious virus that spreads among birds and in rare cases can affect humans. The disease killed several people worldwide.
Governments spent billions accumulating Tamiflu based on the company’s claims that were false, according to the recently disclosed lawsuit, filed last September by four law firms in Baltimore, Texas, Maryland and Pennsylvania on behalf of Dr. Thomas Jefferson.
The United States government spent $ 1.5 on the storage of the drug to prevent future pandemics. In 2005, President George W. Bush delivered a speech at the National Institute of Health, where he justified this expense.
“We are also increasing stocks of antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu,” he said. “Then, in addition to the vaccines, which are the basis of our response to a pandemic, I ask Congress for a billion dollars to store additional antiviral drugs,” he announced.
But Dr. Jefferson, a determined physician and public health researcher, had been investigating Roche’s claims since 2009, and demanded that the company publish clinical studies on the drug, which he received in 2013.
After studying the data, he concluded that he does not support Roche’s claims and that Tamiflu, “… is more likely to perpetuate an influenza pandemic than to stop it.”
“Roche successfully concealed these facts for many years, among other things, selectively citing his studies, obfuscating and suppressing data that goes against his marketing message, and using lobbyists, key opinion leaders and ghost writers to promote what makes Tamiflu sell: A misleading promise to alleviate the fear of an influenza pandemic. Roche has also effectively minimized the adverse effects of taking the medication, effects that may be greater than the benefit, ”the lawsuit explained.
Dr. Jefferson and the attorneys representing him presented the case under the False Claims Act, also known as the “Lincoln Law,” which allows people to file claims against individuals or corporations that have defrauded government programs. from United States.
The law entitles informants to anywhere between 15 and 25 percent of what the government finally recovers as a result of the claim, and sometimes the reward can reach 30 percent.
Dr. Jefferson has cooperated with the Cochrane Collaboration, a respected research network that produces systematic reviews of products from the pharmaceutical industry. The Canadian Medical Association has described the non-profit organization as “the best individual resource for methodological research and for developing the science of metaepidemiology.”
A 2014 Guardian investigation revealed that the drug manufacturer also underestimated the symptoms associated with taking the medication, especially if an influenza pandemic ever occurred.
“If a million people take Tamiflu in a pandemic, 45,000 will experience vomiting, 31,000 will experience headaches and 11,000 will have psychiatric side effects. However, remember that all these figures assume that we are only giving Tamiflu to one million people: if things start, we have accumulated enough for 80% of the population. That is quite vomit. “The article concluded
According to the investigation, it already seemed to be a matter of concern that the British government had spent some 650 million dollars on the drug to protect its own population against an influenza pandemic.
On the official website of the drug, as of Tuesday afternoon, it is still indicated that, in addition to curbing the symptoms of the flu, “Tamiflu can also reduce the chance of getting the flu in people 1 year or older.”
“Roche masterfully marketed this medicine to fill Roche’s coffers at the expense of taxpayers,” said Clayton Halunen, a lawyer at the Minneapolis-based firm.
“This is precisely the type of corporate behavior that the False Claims Act is designed to stop,” he added.