This week, Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that only one in five people who were diagnosed with swine flu actually had the disease and that four fifths were instructed to take Tamiflu unnecessarily.
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The Government agency reported that around one million packets of Tamiflu have been prescribed so far, but more than 800,000 of these were not necessary. In one seven-day period, the rate of correct diagnosis dropped to an astonishing 1 out of 20, with 38,000 citizens taking the controversial antiviral. These alarming figures only came to light after the HPA took swabs from random samples of people who had used the NHS helpline.
This means close to a million people needlessly stayed at home in isolation over the summer, in the false belief that they had swine flu. "These figures are a damning indictment of the government's approach to tackling swine flu," said Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Norman Lamb. "Ministers had years to prepare for such an outbreak but completely failed to put in place an effective flu-line service. It's seriously concerning that large numbers of patients may have been put at risk through high rates of misdiagnosis.While protecting people during an outbreak has to be the priority we cannot escape the fact that an enormous amount of money has been wasted by giving people drugs they simply didn't need."
On top of an estimated 500 million pound cost to the UK economy, the misdiagnosis may have caused new health problems for the members of the public who took the antiviral. The Medicines and Health Regulatory Authority has been swamped with complaints of side-effects from members of the public who had taken Tamiflu, with 11 percent reporting nausea.
Many experts have long refuted the fear-mongering that the mainstream media had allocated to the swine flu issue, with most seeing it as a cynical sales-drive for antivirals and vaccines on behalf of the pharmaceutical industry. This view was supported by research published in Science journal very soon after pandemic status was awarded, in which it was shown that the swine flu organism was of low virulence. Critics point out that policymakers selectively ignored this research, yet happily accepted a study conducted by American scientists on the safety of the Tamiflu, even though the study only lasted one week and all eight authors declared financial interests in the antiviral they were testing. Widespread use of Tamiflu has shown to be ineffective against the H1N1 virus, with the virus becoming quickly resistant.
Despite the increasing burden of evidence to the contrary, the NHS refused to accept that science had been distorted. A spokesperson commented: "Protecting the public is the prime concern on our strategy... this means offering antivirals when required."
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