'Shocking example of incompetence' over stockpiled flu drug Tamiflu

Public Accounts committee says storage mistake cost taxpayers £74m - for an antiviral that has divided experts over its effectiveness

Health officials spent £424 million stockpiling a flu drug that has divided experts over how effective it is, a public spending watchdog found.

Around 6.5 million units of the Tamiflu bought by the Department of Health also had to be written off because it could not guarantee the antiviral had been stored correctly, the National Audit Office said.

That mistake cost taxpayers £74 million - a "shocking example of incompetence" according to Public Accounts committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge.

The NAO began investigating after a number of MPs raised concerns about the decision to stockpile Tamiflu.

It said that while there is a general consensus that the drug reduces the duration of influenza and, in certain circumstances, prevents it, there is less agreement about how effective it is in preventing complications like pneumonia, reducing the need for hospital treatment or lowering death rates.

Of the 40 million units of Tamiflu bought, a quarter were written off. Some 6.5 million of those were ditched before reaching the end of their shelf life in 2009-10 because the department was unable to verify that the stock, distributed to the NHS during that year's pandemic, had been stored correctly.

The department began stockpiling Tamiflu in 2006 in response to the increasing concerns about bird flu.

Overall, £560 million was spent on antiviral medicine - £424 million on Tamiflu and £136 million on back-up drug Relenza - between 2006/7 and 2012/13.

Additional stocks of Tamiflu are due to reach their end of shelf life and be replaced during 2013-14 at a cost of £49 million, the NAO said.

Mrs Hodge said: "It is extremely worrying to find that the Government spent £424 million stockpiling 40 million units of Tamiflu between 2006-07 and 2012-13 despite there being question marks over the effectiveness of the drug.

"Although Tamiflu speeds up recovery times, experts do not agree over its ability to reduce complications and hospitalisations.

"In a shocking example of incompetence, £74 million of taxpayers' money was squandered when 6.5 million units of Tamiflu were written off because of poor record keeping by the NHS. There is simply no excuse for this waste.

"It is important that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) assure themselves that they have all clinical trials information. It is essential, not only for the public purse, but for public safety, that the Department of Health carefully examine how it stockpiles medicines in the future."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own