Tamiflu should not be given to children with flu

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A new study cautions harmful side effects of Tamiflu like vomiting which can lead to dehydration and other complications.

Paris – Children with seasonal flu should not be given antivirals such as Tamiflu because harmful side effects outweigh relatively meagre benefits, according to a study released Monday.

In some children, Tamiflu caused nausea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration and other complications, researchers reported.

The study did not cover the current outbreak of swine flu, but its conclusions suggest that antivirals may not significantly reduce the length of illness or prevent complications in children infected with the new A(H1N1) virus, the researchers said.

Carl Henegan, a doctor at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and co-author of the study, said the current British practice of giving Tamiflu for mild illness was "an inappropriate strategy".

"The downside of the harms outweighs the one-day reduction in symptomatic benefits," he said.

The research showed that antivirals oseltamivir and zanamivir shortened the duration of seasonal flu by up to a day and a half.

But the drugs had little or no effect on asthma flare-ups, increased ear infections or the need for antibiotics.

Tamiflu, the brand name for oseltamivir, was also linked to an increased risk of vomiting. Zanamivir is marketed under the name Relenza.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), comes 10 days after Britain's Health Protection Agency (HPA) reported that more than half of 248 students given Tamiflu after a classmate fell ill with swine flu suffered side-effects such as nausea, insomnia and nightmares.

Most of the students did not have the flu when they were given the drug.

In the BMJ study, led by David Mant of Oxford University, researchers reviewed four earlier clinical trials -- two with Relenza and two with Tamiflu -- for influenza treatment covering 1,766 children 12 or younger. More half had confirmed cases of A(H1N1) flu.

They also reviewed three other trials in which the drugs were given to children who had been exposed to the virus but showed no symptoms.

Such "proactive" use resulted in only an eight percent reduction in the incidence of influenza.

None of the trials tested the efficacy of anti-virals against the new strain of swine flu that has swept across the globe since April, infecting hundreds of thousands and claiming more than 1,100 lives.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, the patent holder of Tamiflu, suggested the symptoms described in the study might be due in part to the flu itself and not the medication.

"According the WHO, 50 percent of patients with the flu (swine or seasonal) have nausea symptoms or digestive problems caused by the illness," a Roche spokesman told AFP.

"Clinical studies on children treated with Tamiflu have shown secondary effects such as nausea, but these have been moderate and it is extremely rare that treatment must be halted as a consequence," the spokesman said.

Tamiflu can be prescribed from the age of one year old.

AFP / Expatica

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