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'New anti-flu drug will raise demand'

Tamiflu (oseltamivir), the anti-viral flu treatment launched last week, is expected to increase GP consultations from patients seeking the drug for themselves and from parents seeking it for their children, experts have warned.

Tamiflu is taken orally and, unlike Relenza (zanamivir), GPs can prescribe it to young children provided they are in an at-risk group and present within 48 hours of symptoms, according to guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

Those considered 'at risk' include patients with any chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic renal disease, diabetes mellitus or compromised immune systems, as well as all over-65s.

Professor John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary University of London, said media publicity would raise awareness and demand.

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