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Tamiflu swine flu policy 'should be reviewed urgently'

By Christian Duffin

Prescribing experts have called for an urgent review of the NHS's use of Tamiflu in tackling the swine flu pandemic – amid concerns that the public have been misled about the drug's effectiveness.

An editorial in the BMJ's Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin argues that the drug has failed to prevent widespread transmission of swine flu and that the side effects and costs linked to it were not made widely known in advance.

The editorial in the September issue says: ‘The limited evidence base, and the low mortality rates so far in the pandemic underlie the scepticism about widespread use of oseltamivir. It is regrettable that obvious potential problems from the widespread use of oseltamivir were not presented openly from the outset.'

'These include encouraging viral resistance, unwanted effects of oseltamivir, costs of the drug, and the added costs and disruption to the NHS in ensuring ready access to oseltamivir.'

Other concerns include the ‘black market resale of the drug, and depleting antiviral stocks should H1N1 flu become more virulent as the pandemic "matures".'

Emphasis on using oseltamivir could have discouraged the public from ‘standard hygiene and other control measures' and led them to believed that ‘any febrile illness is flu', and therefore requires the drug, the editorial adds.

‘The risk benefit analysis of the policy on oseltamivir deserved more open and balanced public discussion. On this measure, at least, the policy has failed and should be reviewed urgently.'

The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin has called for an urgent review of Tamiflu use in tackling swine flu The Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin has called for an urgent review of Tamiflu use in tackling swine flu Take our swine flu survey - and win an iPod Touch!

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