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Tamiflu being given out unnecessarily claims BMA leader

By Lilian Anekwe

A senior GP responsible for helping draft the profession's swine flu plans has attacked the Government for encouraging the public to take Tamiflu even in cases where they may not need drugs.

Dr Peter Holden, the BMA's lead GP on pandemic flu, said the Department of Health was encouraging GPs to dish out ‘a pill for every ill' and were in danger of becoming over reliant on Tamiflu.

‘Both Andy Burnham and Sir Liam Donaldson have contradicted themselves by telling the public they can have Tamiflu if and when they want it, but at the same time telling GPs to use their clinical judgement,' he said. ' They are running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.'

Dr Holden, a GP in Matlock, Derbyshire, who helped draft the clinical algorithm used by operators on the National Pandemic Flu Service telephone line, said he feared the thresholds for issuing Tamiflu had been set too low – a policy which would come back to haunt the DH if the H1N1 virus becomes resistant to Tamiflu.

'People are finding it a bit hard to swallow that we are getting beaten up by the DH for antibiotics prescribing but that the same principle doesn't seem to apply to the judicious use of Tamiflu.

‘Personally I feel the flu line will help to relieve pressure on GPs but my concern is that the threshold for giving out Tamiflu will be set too low. For most people, given that it is a mild illness the amount of medication being given out is overkill.'

As more courses of Tamiflu are distributed GPs are seeing a rise in the number of patients consulting with side-effects caused by the antiviral, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and headache.

‘Every day GPs are saying they are seeing people with side effects from Tamiflu' Dr Holden told Pulse.

‘People are going for second and third consultations with their GP. It's putting even more strain on the NHS', he said.

A DH spokesperson said: 'We accept that some people may think we are offering antivirals too readily, whereas others consider they should be freely available to people who are thought to have swine flu.

'We do not feel that science is yet in a position to lead to a clear and unequivocal decision on treatment policy and so it is right that we proceed with caution.

'We have therefore decided on a precautionary approach whereby everyone who is diagnosed with swine flu should be offered antivirals.'

Tamiflu: being dished out too widely claims BMA chief Tamiflu: being dished out too widely claims BMA chief

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