Monday, April 14th, 2014
The antiviral medication Tamiflu may not be any more effective than other methods of treating influenza, or flu viruses, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ. More from Time.com:
There isn’t strong evidence to support stockpiling the products in national emergency drug depots in case of a pandemic, the researchers say. Both drugs—Tamiflu is the brand name for oseltamivir and Relenza is the brand name zanamivir—are designed to stop the influenza virus from spreading in an infected person, and claim to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and how long people are sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps the drugs in its stockpile for use in both seasonal and pandemic flu situations, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization also recommend the medications for treating flu.
The authors of the current review found, however, that in the case of the European approvals in particular, regulatory agencies relied on summaries of studies rather than an exhaustive analysis of raw data, known as clinical study reports, which can run to more than 1,000 pages and detail methods, protocols and statistical analyses.
After a four-year effort to obtain this data from both the manufacturers and the EMA, the authors report in the journal BMJ that those trials do not support claims that the drugs lower the risk of complications from flu, such as pneumonia, or that the benefits of the drugs outweigh their risks, which include nausea, vomiting, headaches and kidney disorders.
The authors point to not just one failure in the process of approving these medications, but a weak regulatory system in which the studies are all conducted by manufacturers, and in which the trials compared the medications against placebo rather than to existing flu treatments.
Image: Woman sick with flu, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 10th, 2014
Tamiflu, a common medication used to treat seasonal flu, is in short supply in its oral suspension form, which is used to treat children suffering from the flu. The shortage is temporary, and it is due to an early demand for the drug in what is shaping up to be a powerful flu season, according to Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit which manufactures the drug. Reuters has more:
“A brief shortage of OS is expected through mid-January. We may be unable to fill complete orders from distributors for a limited time,” [Roche spokeswoman Tara] Iannuccillo added.
Tamiflu is used to reduce the severity of the flu when taken at the outset of symptoms. The oral suspension of the drug is primarily prescribed for children under the age of 13 and for people who have difficulty swallowing.
The delay in packaging of the liquid version has not impacted supplies of regular Tamiflu 75 milligram capsules, Genentech said.
The flu is spreading quickly this season, with 25 states already reporting cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thousands of people die every year from flu, which typically peaks in the United States between the months of October and March. This season’s virus has killed six children in the United States so far, according to CDC data.
Roche said it expects to have additional supply of Tamiflu OS available in mid-January.
“We expect that these new supplies should meet demand for OS overall and we will continue to receive and ship out new supplies of Tamiflu OS and capsules throughout the flu season,” Iannuccillo said.
If the drug is unavailable in a particular area during the shortage, pharmacists can mix the capsules into an oral suspension for people who need it.
Meanwhile, the CDC is recommending that people continue to get flu shots to prevent the virus.
Image: Child with flu waiting for medicine, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 31st, 2013
A new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, reports that children should receive flu shots because seasonal influenza can be life-threatening even in children without known risk factors. The study found that 830 children died between 2004 and 2012, and that 43 percent of those children had no risk factors or immune issues at the time of their death. More from The New York Times:
Recommendations for vaccination changed over the period, but since 2008, the C.D.C. has recommended a flu shot for everyone 6 months or older.
Of the 511 children whose vaccination status was known, 84 percent had not had a flu shot. In the 2009-10 flu season, when 66 children with a known vaccination status died, 64 of them were unvaccinated.
Death often came quickly: most of the children died within a week of the appearance of symptoms, and a third of them died outside the hospital or in an emergency room.
“A lot of parents don’t think of flu as being very serious, especially if their child is healthy” said the lead author, Dr. Karen K. Wong, a medical officer with the C.D.C. “But this study shows that even healthy children are at risk, and that’s why it’s important for every child to get vaccinated.”
Image: Baby receiving a flu shot, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 27th, 2013
Efforts by public health officials to encourage families to have their children vaccinated against seasonal flu appear to be paying off, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that more children than ever received the vaccine in the 2012-2013 season. More from Time.com:
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The researchers say the increase is encouraging for this year’s numbers as well.
Last season, 56.6% of kids between the ages 6 months to 17-years-old were vaccinated, a 5.1% increase from the year prior. Smaller — but still notable — increases were seen among adult populations too, which were up 2.7%. Overall, 45% of the U.S. population got a flu shot last year.
Although rates are up across the board, there are some disparities among ethnic and racial groups. However, the traditional ethnic and racial disparities were not seen among U.S. children.
The numbers were announced during a press conference with Dr. Howard Koh, the Assistant Secretary of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Assistant Surgeon General.
The increases are remarkable because they indicate that public health messaging is getting through to the right groups. The U.S. made a universal recommendation in 2010 that everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu vaccines. But that doesn’t mean the push for more vaccinating will relax. “Despite substantial progress, we can do even more to make our country healthier through prevention. Flu vaccination should represent a simple investment we make year in and year out to maximize the gift of health,” said Dr. Koh.
Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
Flu season may still feel far away as summer-like temperatures are still felt over much of the country. But the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an advisory this week urging parents to get their children–and themselves–immunized against the flu as soon as possible to achieve the maximum protection when the season begins in earnest. More from NBC News:
There are some new vaccines on the market and while some of the newer ones might appear better, it’s not worth waiting for one, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in an advisory.
“With the exception of children less than 6 months of age, everybody should go out and get their influenza vaccine as soon as the influenza vaccines are available,” Dr. Michael Brady of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and chairman of the Committee on Infectious Diseases for the Academy told NBC News.
“Parents should not delay vaccinating their children to obtain a specific vaccine,” added pediatrician Dr. Henry Bernstein of the Hofstra North Shore – Long Island Jewish Health System in New York, who led the team writing the recommendations.
“Influenza virus is unpredictable, and what’s most important is that people receive the vaccine soon, so that they will be protected when the virus begins circulating.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 people a year die from flu in the United States, and up to 200,000 are sick enough to be hospitalized. A lot depends on the strains circulating. During last year’s flu season, 160 children died from flu.
Image: Child getting a shot, via Shutterstock
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