By Dr. Mercola
In 2006 health agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva began warning of the imminent onset of an avian flu pandemic of lethal proportions.
The pandemic never materialized, but sales of Tamiflu, touted as effective in reducing complications of flu such as bronchitis and pneumonia, skyrocketed.
In 2009 it was again presented as the drug of choice to stave off swine flu.
Back in 2006, Dr. Tom Jefferson had issued an analysis concluding that the drug was effective.
But when another physician later pointed out that 8 of the 10 studies he had relied on were still unpublished, Jefferson decided to seek out the raw data -- only to find he was unable to do so.
His concern turned to outrage when two employees of a communications company admitted that they had been paid to ghostwrite some of the studies, with explicit instructions to come to the "correct" conclusion regarding Tamiflu's effectiveness.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
"After reanalyzing the raw data finally made available (they still don't have it all) ... there was no proof that Tamiflu reduced serious flu complications like pneumonia or death.
In short, it appears the pharmaceutical companies had been ... conning the public on matters of health..."
Interestingly, the author of this LA Times piece, David Finkelstein, actually sued Genentech Corp. (a U.S. affiliate of Hoffmann-La Roche that holds the marketing rights to Tamiflu) in small claims court for "alleged breach of contract by way of fraud" after he discovered these facts.
And guess what? Genentech settled the case for $200—the price of the drug Finkelstein had purchased but not yet used, plus court costs. If only the remedy was that easy for everyone that has been scammed, not to mention severely harmed, by this modern-day snake oil...
Conning the Public on Matters of Public Health
The source of the information that prompted Finkelstein to sue to get his money back for this fraudulently hawked drug was a story originally published in Discover Magazine in November 2010. The article, titled, "The Problem With Medicine: We Don't Know If Most of It Works," became available online in February last year, and I highly recommend reading through it. It's a very revealing piece...
In it, authors Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee write:
"In a recent poll conducted by the Campaign for Effective Patient Care, a nonprofit advocacy group based in California, 65 percent of the 800 California voters surveyed said they thought that most or nearly all of the health care they receive is based on scientific evidence. The reality would probably shock them.
A panel of experts convened in 2007 by the prestigious Institute of Medicine estimated that "well below half" of the procedures doctors perform and the decisions they make about surgeries, drugs, and tests have been adequately investigated and shown to be effective. The rest are based on a combination of guesswork, theory, and tradition, with a strong dose of marketing by drug and device companies. Doctors are often as much in the dark as their patients when they implant new devices... perform surgery, or write prescriptions."
... Many widely adopted surgeries, devices, tests, and drugs also rest on surprisingly thin data... [A]ccording to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality report published in 2001: More than 770,000 Americans are injured or die each year from drug complications, including unexpected side effects, some of which might have been avoided if somebody had conducted the proper research."
The same goes for Tamiflu. Had proper research been conducted rather than concocted, staggering amounts of money could have been saved or allocated for something more useful, and lives could have been spared...
According to Lenzer and Brownlee:
"Although Jefferson had trusted the unpublished study conclusions at the time, the challenge sent him on a hunt for the raw data in 2009. He was stymied when several study authors and the manufacturer gave one excuse after another for why they couldn't supply the actual data. Jefferson's concern turned to outrage when two employees of a communications company came forward with documents showing that they had been paid to ghostwrite some of the Tamiflu studies.
They had been given explicit instructions to ensure that a key message was embedded in the articles: Flu is a threat, and Tamiflu is the answer.
... Health officials around the world had assumed the drug was as effective as claimed and recommended Tamiflu for patients during the recent h1n1, or swine flu, pandemic. That pandemic turned out to be far milder than expected, and it is anybody's guess whether better information about Tamiflu—or better drugs—will appear before a more serious flu outbreak hits. "We shouldn't have taken anybody's word for it. We took it on good faith. Never again," Jefferson says today."
Jefferson's update was published in December 2009, in which he concluded that:
"Neuraminidase inhibitors have modest effectiveness against the symptoms of influenza in otherwise healthy adults. The drugs are effective postexposure against laboratory confirmed influenza, but this is a small component of influenza-like illness, so for this outcome neuraminidase inhibitors are not effective. Neuraminidase inhibitors might be regarded as optional for reducing the symptoms of seasonal influenza. Paucity of good data has undermined previous findings for oseltamivir's prevention of complications from influenza. Independent randomised trials to resolve these uncertainties are needed."
The Dangers of Tamiflu
Back in 2008, the FDA started reviewing reports of abnormal behavior and disturbing brain effects in more than 1,800 children who had taken Tamiflu. The symptoms included convulsions, delirium and delusions. In Japan, five deaths were reported in children under 16 as a result of such neurological or psychiatric problems. Seven adult deaths have also been attributed to Tamiflu, due to its neuropsychiatric effect.
According to a 2009 study, more than half of children taking Tamiflu experience side effects such as nausea and nightmares. Other more rare and bizarre side effects have also been reported, such as the case of a 19-year old British girl who developed toxic epidermal necrolysis and blindness after taking Tamiflu last year.
A few years ago, Dr. Lawrence G. Roberts, the authentic "father of the internet" also shared his first-hand experience with Tamiflu with me:
"A few years ago, as I returned from Japan, I took Tamiflu on the plane as I arrived into SFO. I thought my symptoms felt like the flu and I (at that time) carried it. As I drove home, I was observed drifting off the road from time to time, but all I noticed was I suddenly was over too far and I corrected. Then at the exit, which was a slow right turn, I blanked out just into the turn and went straight into a tree.
I totaled my BMW and caused some knee damage ... I realized somewhat later that the blank out was due to the Tamiflu, but not until other reports came out. Too late to argue the point. Anyway, this was a $100 K side effect caused by the drug, and there most likely have been many more that were never connected to Tamiflu."
Studies Show Flu Vaccines are Also Ineffective and NOT an Ideal Form of Prevention
While antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu have been used with greater frequency, the traditional first line of defense against the flu has been vaccines. Alas, when you start looking around, you'll realize that the evidence against flu vaccines is rapidly mounting as well. In recent years, we've seen a number of truly damaging studies published in the medical literature—although you've not seen them publicized in the media!
Here's a sampling of studies demonstrating the ineffectiveness of flu vaccines. Many of these studies also explain that earlier positive results appear to have been due to various types of bias, and when the bias is removed, the alleged benefits of vaccinating against the flu disappear. There are many more... For another list of additional studies demolishing the claim that the flu vaccine is an effective prevention strategy, see this previous article:
✓ Functional status is a confounder of the association of influenza vaccine and risk of all cause mortality in seniors. Int J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr;35(2):345-52 According to the authors: "... disability indicators tended to be associated with both a higher risk of death and a decreased likelihood of vaccination. Consequently, adjustment for the functional status indicators moved the estimate of the association of influenza vaccination and risk of death closer to the null..."
✓ Influenza vaccination and risk of community-acquired pneumonia in immunocompetent elderly people: a population-based, nested case-control study. Lancet. 2008 Aug 2;372(9636):398-405.
The authors concluded that "... influenza vaccination was not associated with a reduced risk of community-acquired pneumonia during the influenza season"
✓ Evidence of bias in estimates of influenza vaccine effectiveness in seniors. Int J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr;35(2):337-44 The authors concluded that, "The reductions in risk before influenza season indicate preferential receipt of vaccine by relatively healthy seniors. Adjustment for diagnosis code variables did not control for this bias. In this study, the magnitude of the bias demonstrated by the associations before the influenza season was sufficient to account entirely for the associations observed during influenza season. "
✓ Benefits of examining influenza vaccine associations outside of influenza season
Comment on: Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Sep 1;178(5):527-33. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Sep 1;178(5):439-40. The authors explain how their approach "show that the lower risks of all-cause mortality and pneumonia hospitalization consistently observed in studies comparing vaccinated and unvaccinated community-dwelling seniors during influenza season are largely, or perhaps entirely, due to bias..."
✓ Mortality benefits of influenza vaccination in elderly people: an ongoing controversy. Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Oct;7(10):658-66 According to the authors: "Recent excess mortality studies were unable to confirm a decline in influenza-related mortality since 1980, even as vaccination coverage increased from 15% to 65%... We conclude that frailty selection bias and use of non-specific endpoints such as all-cause mortality have led cohort studies to greatly exaggerate vaccine benefits. The remaining evidence base is currently insufficient to indicate the magnitude of the mortality benefit, if any, that elderly people derive from the vaccination programme."
✓ Relation of study quality, concordance, take home message, funding, and impact in studies of influenza vaccines: systematic review. BMJ. 2009 Feb 12;338:b354 According to the authors: "Evidence is of poor quality, and studies with conclusions in favor of vaccines are of significantly lower methodological quality. Influenza vaccines studies sponsored by industry are published in journals with higher impact factors and are cited more but are of similar size and quality to the others."
How to Effectively Prevent Influenza
Avoiding influenza and flu-like illness during the flu season or any season doesn't require a flu vaccine. By following the simple guidelines below, you can help keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to get sick or, if you do get sick, you are better prepared to move through it without complications. For more details, follow the hyperlinks provided.
• Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I've previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency is likely the TRUE culprit behind the seasonality of the flu -- not the flu virus itself. This is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.
Ideally, you'll want to get all your vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, but as a last resort you can take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. According to the latest review by Carole Baggerly (Grassrootshealth.org), adults need about 8,000 IU's a day.
• Avoid Sugar, Fructose and Processed Foods. Sugar impairs the function of your immune system almost immediately, and as you likely know, a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other illness. Be aware that sugar is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice.
• Get Enough Rest. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you're tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article Guide to a Good Night's Sleep for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
• Have Effective Tools to Address Stress . We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
• Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads.
• Take a Good Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also crucial to avoid excessive and/or oxidized omega-6 fatty acids, as well as trans fatty acids commonly found in processed foods, as they will seriously damage your immune response.
• Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this -- antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple non-toxic soap that you can switch your family to.
• Use Natural Antibiotics. Examples include colloidal silver, oil of oregano, and garlic. These work like broad-spectrum antibiotics against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance.
• Avoid Hospitals. I'd recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you're having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infectious microorganisms of all kinds. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life-threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.
Taken together, these strategies lay the groundwork for a robust immune system that can stand up to all kinds of viral and bacterial assaults. However, there are also a number of all-natural therapies that can help you combat colds and flu's on a more short-term basis. Here's a listing of some of the most effective ones:
✓ Zinc—According to a Cochrane Database Review of the medical research on zinc, when taken within one day of the first symptoms, zinc can cut down the duration of a cold by about 24 hours
✓ Mushrooms—Beta glucans and proteoglycans are the primary biologically active compounds in the mushroom fruit body and mycelia that support your immune system
✓ Oregano Oil: The higher the carvacrol concentration, the more effective it is. Carvacrol is the most active antimicrobial agent in oregano oil
✓ A tea made from a combination of elderflower, yarrow, boneset, linden, peppermint and ginger; drink it hot and often for combating a cold or flu. It causes you to sweat, which is helpful for eradicating a virus from your system
✓ Chicken soup—Chicken contains a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily
✓ Vitamin C: A very potent antioxidant; use a natural form such as acerola, which contains associated micronutrients. You can take several grams every hour till you are better unless you start developing loose stools
✓ Propolis: A bee resin and one of the most broad-spectrum antimicrobial compounds in the world; propolis is also the richest source of caffeic acid and apigenin, two very important compounds that aid in immune response
✓ Olive leaf extract: Ancient Egyptians and Mediterranean cultures used it for a variety of health-promoting uses and it is widely known as a natural, non-toxic immune system builder