Tuesday, August 25, 2009

[U.K.] Health experts warn not to take Tamiflu pills:


Anna Davis, Health Reporter

The Government is refusing to change its swine flu policy after experts said healthy people should not be given Tamiflu.

The World Health Organisation advice directly contradicts British policy on the issue.
The WHO said most patients were experiencing typical flu symptoms and would get better within a week, and Tamiflu should not be given to healthy people.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We believe a safety-first approach of offering antivirals, when required, to everyone remains a sensible and responsible way forward.

“However, we will keep this policy under review as we learn more about the virus and its effects.”

He added that the WHO recommendations are “in line” with UK policy on antivirals.
The NHS has given out hundreds of thousands of doses of the antiviral since the start of the pandemic, and the national swine flu hotline was set up to make it easier for people to bypass their GP and get the drug.

But Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson admitted that less than 10 per cent of those who have been prescribed Tamiflu actually have swine flu. Figures show that staff on the hotline authorised 45,986 courses of antivirals in the past week.

Many more people have collected antivirals after seeing their doctor.

During the early stages of the pandemic Tamiflu was given to people who had been in contact with swine flu victims, even if they were not showing symptoms.

Today's WHO advice comes after a government watchdog raised fears that Tamiflu can put some people at greater risk of suffering a stroke.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency alerted GPs to the potential problem.

Researchers at Oxford University have also warned that children with mild symptoms should not be given the drug because of side effects.

There have also been claims that mass use of Tamiflu will encourage the virus to become resistant to the antiviral and can cause nightmares in children.

Today's advice, published on the WHO website, said Tamiflu (also called oseltamivir) and another antiviral Relenza (also called zanamivir) should not be given to healthy people.

However, the drugs should be given quickly to patients in a serious condition or who appear to be deteriorating.

Those in at-risk groups — such as people with an underlying medical condition such as diabetes — should also receive the drugs promptly.

A statement said the new guidelines “represent the consensus reached by an international panel of experts who reviewed all available studies on the safety and effectiveness of these drugs”.

It went on: “Healthy patients with uncomplicated illness need not be treated with antivirals.”

TV presenter Andrew Castle has publicly criticised Tamiflu after revealing that his daughter Georgina nearly died after taking it.

Mr Castle said the 16-year-old suffered an asthma attack and was hospitalised after being given a double dose of the antiviral in May, when there was a swine flu outbreak at her school, Alleyn's in Dulwich. Tests later revealed that she did not have the virus.

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