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August 11, 2009

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Tamiflu may put children at risk, UK researchers say

CHILDREN should not routinely be treated with flu drugs like Tamiflu since there is no clear evidence they prevent complications and the medicines may do more harm than good, British researchers said yesterday.

They called for a rethink of current widespread use of antivirals among under-12s in the light of an analysis of clinical data from past seasonal flu outbreaks showing scant benefits and potentially harmful side effects.

Governments around the world have built up large stockpiles of Roche's Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza to deal with the swine flu pandemic.

In Britain, hundreds of thousands of doses of Tamiflu have been handed out to people with the disease, about half are children.

But Dr Matthew Thompson from the University of Oxford said that while antivirals shortened the duration of flu in children by around a day, they didn't reduce asthma flare-ups or the likelihood of children needing antibiotics.

Tamiflu was also linked to an increased risk of vomiting, which can be serious in children as it causes dehydration.

The analysis was based on a systematic review of seven clinical studies looking at use of Tamiflu and Relenza in seasonal flu outbreaks in 2,629 children aged one to 12 years.

Thompson said there was no reason to think the conclusions would not also apply to swine flu.

"The strategy of giving out this treatment in a mild infection is inappropriate," fellow Oxford researcher Dr Carl Heneghan said.

The researchers also found that 13 people need to be treated to prevent one additional case, meaning antivirals reduce transmission by a modest 8 percent.

Dr Ronald Cutler at Queen Mary, University of London, said targeted drug use could be more beneficial.


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