August 24, 2009

Flu Drugs Not Necessary For Healthy Adults

British researchers reported on Friday that the flu drugs Tamiflu and Relenza might not be worthwhile to treat seasonal influenza in healthy adults.

"Recommending the use of antiviral drugs for the treatment of people presenting with symptoms is unlikely to be the most appropriate course of action," wrote Jane Burch of the University of York and colleagues.

Their findings support an advisory from the World Health Organization (WHO) that says healthy patients who get H1N1 swine flu without having any complications do not need to be treated with antivirals.

Tamiflu, produced by Swedish company Roche, is a pill that can treat and prevent influenza A viruses of all kinds.  Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline, is an inhaled drug in the same class.

WHO has recommended both the drugs for pregnant women, patients with underlying medical conditions, and children under 5, as they are the most at risk of severe illness.

The team, which reported their findings in Lancet Infectious Diseases, reviewed many different published studies on Tamiflu and Relenza.

They wrote, "We present the results for healthy adults and people at-risk of influenza-related complications."

Both drugs were found to shave about half a day off the time patients were ill.  Influenza usually affects people for a week.

The drug worked best with people who had a high risk of complications, like patients with diabetes or asthma.  For those patients, Relenza cut the sickness by almost a day and Tamiflu by three-quarters of a day on average.

The researchers said that this suggests the drugs should be reserved for people who need them the most.

The H1N1 virus has been declared a pandemic by the WHO and is circulating globally.  U.S. health officials said on Friday that the pandemic was worsening in Japan, getting better in Britain and was still widely active in the U.S.

Global manufacturers for the vaccine do not expect to have vaccines ready until the end of September or October at the soonest.


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