The Puzzle of Tamiflu

Nov 18, 2005 1:37pm

Friday 1:24 PM

Under the gun again.  The story is bird flu.  Here’s the problem: There’s one prescription drug, Tamiflu, that people are stocking up on, in the hope that it would be helpful if there’s an actual outbreak of the disease. 

But in Japan, where Tamiflu is far more widely used than in the U.S., twelve children have died after taking it, and another 30 are reported to have had "neuropsychiatric events"–cases of hallucinations, convulsions and delirium. 

Did Tamiflu cause those cases?  Don’t know. 

Would Tamiflu save lives if the avian flu virus (the strain is called H5N1) mutates to a form that spreads from person to person?  Don’t know.

Should the Food & Drug Administration toughen the warning labels on Tamiflu in the U.S.?  Should it do anything more drastic–pull the drug?  An advisory panel says no–they just wrapped up a meeting outside Washington where they were trying to be very reassuring.  The Deputy Commissioner of the F.D.A., Dr. Murray Lumpkin, has been quoted as saying, "Based on the information we have right now, we cannot say definitively there is a causal relation between the drug and the children’s death."

Some other doctors we’ve reached say they wish the government would be more aggressive–essentially saying, well, if you don’t know….

And that’s why we’re in crash mode again. We’ll see if we make air.

– Ned

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