As countries around the world continue to stockpile Roche’s widely used Tamiflu, the effectiveness of the anti-flu drug is being called into question.
A review of past clinical trials out today found no clear evidence that the antiviral med can protect against flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, among otherwise-healthy adults. The BMJ report concluded that Tamiflu, also known by its generic name oseltamivir, reduces the duration of symptoms by 24 hours among otherwise-healthy individuals, but does not cut the risk of complications.
A piece in The Atlantic last month also raised red flags about Tamiflu’s effectiveness and side effects. Some studies have suggested that the antiviral induces nausea and vomiting among about 20% of adults and causes adverse psychiatric symptoms among about 20% of children — although Roche, which markets the drug, says there is no causal link. In Japan, where Tamiflu is frequently prescribed, the drug is also potentially linked to 50 deaths from cardiac arrest between 2001 and 2007, according to the head of medicines watchdog quoted in The Atlantic.
With Tamiflu-resistant swine flu strains on the rise, we may need a replacement. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, modeled the binding between FDA-approved drugs and proteins on the outside of the flu virus. Their computer program identified 15 compounds, all with a greater affinity than any existing anti-flu meds, including Tamiflu. Six of these drugs are already being tested against H1N1, they reported Sunday at the American Society for Cell Biology meeting in San Diego.
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