August 10, 2009

Tamiflu Provides More Complications For Children

British researchers said on Monday that children should not be routinely treated with flu drugs like Tamiflu because there is no evidence they prevent complications and the medicines might do more harm than good.

Researchers decided to rethink the current use of antivirals among children under 12 in light of an analysis of clinical data from past seasonal flu outbreaks, showing hardly any benefits and potentially harmful side effects.

To fight the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, governments from around the world have hoarded big orders of Roche's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza.

Hundreds of thousands of doses of Tamiflu in Britain have been handed out to people with the disease, of whom half are children.

However, Dr. Matthew Thompson of the University of Oxford said that although antivirals shortened the duration of flu in children by around a day, they did not reduce asthma flare-ups or the likelihood of children needing antibiotics.

Tamiflu was also considered to cause an increased risk of vomiting, which can cause dehydration and be a serious risk in children.

The analysis was based on seven clinical studies that looked at Tamiflu and Relenza in seasonal flu outbreaks in 2,629 children between 1 to 12 years old.

Thompson said there is no reason to think the conclusions apply to the current relatively mild outbreak of swine flu.

"The strategy of giving out this treatment in a mild infection is inappropriate," fellow Oxford researcher Dr. Carl Heneghan told reporters.

The researchers also found that 13 people need to be treated to prevent one additional case. 

"While morbidity and mortality in the current pandemic remain low, a more conservative strategy might be considered prudent, given the limited data, side effects such as vomiting, and the potential for developing resistant strains of influenza," they wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Dr. Ronald Cutler at Queen Mary, University London said that the targeted drug use could be more useful than widespread use.  Cutler was not involved with the Oxford research.

Roche said that Tamiflu's side effects were known, but the drug had been shown worthy of fighting the virus and reducing the duration and severity of the illness.

"In clinical studies of children taking Tamiflu the main adverse events were nausea 4 percent, abdominal pain 1 percent and vomiting 10 percent," it added in a statement.

The British company said that the most common side effects with Glaxo's inhaled drug Relenza was a headache and nausea.


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