Don't Rely on Tamiflu to Save You

The swine flu’s turning out to be a bit of a bust so far – no vaccine, but on the other hand, not quite as deadly as regular flu. O’ course, the 1918 pandemic followed Aristotle’s great rule of drama, too, so we can’t get complacent just yet.

We also don’t need to riot in the streets if we run out of Tamiflu:

Look I don’t want to freak you out, since Tamiflu is the one thing which everyone believes will save us from Parmageddon, but I’ve been reading through the published trial data on the drug, and I’m not sure it’s all that great.The Cochrane Library is one of the greatest inventions of modern humankind. It’s all very well to do a trial, or lots of little trials, but one trial, simply by chance, might give a false negative, incorrectly missing a true benefit from an effective treatment; or one trial might falsely find a benefit from an ineffective treatment, either by chance, or because the study was designed so badly that it not longer represented a “fair test” of the intervention, against whatever you were comparing it to.


Handily, there is a Cochrane review on Tamiflu, and a similar drug called Relenza.

There is indeed. You’ll have to go visit Ben Goldacre’s blog for the results, but the upshot is this: Tamiflu and Relenza will help you recover from the flu about 17 hours earlier than otherwise. They both do a pretty good job preventing symptomatic influenza. But they’re not magic bullets. So don’t hold your doc at gunpoint trying to get them. And don’t panic when some fear-mongering reporters start screaming “We’re out of Tamiflu! We’re all gonna diiiieeeee!!11!1!

Just wash your hands frequently, stay away from sneezy people, tell panicking pundits to go fuck themselves, and don’t go wallowing in pig pens, and you’ll be fine.

Don't Rely on Tamiflu to Save You

One thought on “Don't Rely on Tamiflu to Save You

  1. 1

    don’t go wallowing in pig pensThe things we sacrifice to make our society safe …Captcha is “sespula”, BTW. How appropriate.

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