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Judge allows $1.5 billion Tamiflu stockpiling lawsuit against Roche to go ahead

Published on 30/09/20 at 12:17pm
Photo by Malcolm Koo, CC-BY-SA 4.0 / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Tamiflu_(oseltamivir)_capsule.jpg

A Maryland federal judge denied Roche’s motion to throw out a lawsuit that alleges the company defrauded the US and state governments through misrepresenting Tamiflu’s benefit in combating the flu. 

The suit was originally brought by Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist and Cochrane Collaboration researcher, in 2014. This followed Jefferson and Cochrane’s years-long campaign which urged Roche to release all the Tamiflu data so the non-profit could assess the drug’s clinical value. The non-profit went as far to push a boycott of the flu drug. 

Roche eventually released its data in 2012, and based on this, Jefferson concluded that Tamiflu could reduce the duration of flu symptoms, as well as the number of symptomatic cases among infected people, but found it did not cut the risk of disease transmission or lower respiratory complications. These are key goals for a pandemic drug, and Jefferson blamed this on the product being approved through trial design loopholes. 

This led Jefferson to file a suit under the US False Claims Act, alleging that Roche had falsely claimed Tamiflu’s benefit which led to the US Government spending $1.5 billion on stockpiling the drug. The act allows individuals to bring claims on behalf of the government. The company made $3.2 billion in revenue in 2009 as the H1N1 flu spread. 

Responding to the judge denying their motion, Roche said it has “complete confidence in the safety and efficacy of Tamiflu and the company plans to vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

Conor Kavanagh

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