With Roche's Tamiflu among the linchpin pandemic-flu remedies, the drug is getting more scrutiny than ever before--some good, some not so much. On the good side of the ledger, researchers found that Tamiflu and its rival, GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza, both help prevent swine flu symptoms when given to healthy people. And it's safe for them to take the drugs for more than four weeks. While they don't keep people from contracting the illness, they do hold off symptoms in some patients. The stock of flu drugs isn't big enough for the average Joe or Jane to get prophylactic treatment, however; but it's good to know that, say, front-line healthcare workers could take it successfully.
On the not-so-good: The U.K. has seen a surge in cases of the flu--by a hundred thousand patients a week the last couple of weeks--and implemented a phone-in system for prescribing Tamiflu. So more folks have been taking the drug, but more have also been experiencing adverse reactions. That includes heart problems, eye problems, and psychiatric side effects. And this comes on the heels of another study showing that more than half of children on Tamiflu have been suffering from reactions such as nausea and nightmares.
In spite of the side effects, however, England's top doctor urged parents to continue giving their kids the antiflu med. "All drugs do have side effects," Sir Liam Donaldson said (as quoted by the Daily Mail). "It is always a case of deciding the balance between benefiting a patient from a treatment and the side effects."