A leading British medical journal is asking drugmaker Roche to release all its data on Tamiflu, claiming there is no evidence the drug can actually stop the flu.
The drug has been stockpiled by dozens of governments worldwide, including Hong Kong, in case of a global flu outbreak and was widely used during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
One of the researchers linked to the BMJ journal yesterday called for European governments to sue Roche.
"I suggest we boycott Roche's products until they publish missing Tamiflu data," wrote Peter Gotzsche, leader of the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen. He said governments should take legal action to get their money back.
Last year, Tamiflu was included in WHO's list of "essential medicines", a list that often prompts governments or donor agencies to buy the drug.
Tamiflu is used to treat both seasonal flu and new flu viruses. WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said the agency had enough proof to warrant its use for unusual viruses like bird flu.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Tamiflu as one of two medications for treating regular flu. The other is GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza. The CDC said such antivirals can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risks of complications and hospitalisation.
In 2009, the BMJ and researchers at the Nordic Cochrane Centre asked Roche to make all its Tamiflu data available.
"Despite a public promise to release (internal company reports) for each (Tamiflu) trial ... Roche has stonewalled," BMJ editor Fiona Godlee wrote in an editorial last month.
Roche said it had complied with all legal requirements on publishing data and provided Gotzsche and his colleagues with 3,200 pages of information in response to their questions.