Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Thursday, November 17, 2005

More Tamiflu deaths

I posted a few days ago about 2 deaths of Japanese teenagers on olsetamivir (Tamiflu) and was skeptical of the connection.

There are now additional cases with 12 total suspected deaths in addition to instances of non-fatal behavioral changes (the first two deaths were trauma suspected to be secondary to unusual behavior brought on by use of the medicine):
An update by FDA staff also includes reports of 32 “neuropsychiatric events” associated with Tamiflu, all but one experienced by Japanese patients. Those cases included delirium, hallucinations, convulsions and encephalitis.
High fever from influenza can cause delirium, convulsions and viral infections cause many cases of encephalitis, so most or all of these events may well be unrelated to Tamiflu.

In addition, the drug is most widely used in Japan, so it's not surprising possible side effects are emerging there:
Of 32 million people treated with Tamiflu since its approval in 1999, 24 million were in Japan.
The additional cases, both deaths and non-fatal cases of unusual neurologic events and strange behavior certainly raise my concern. However, overall safety data remain reassuring:
Roche said that several studies in the United States and Canada had shown that the death incidence rate of influenza patients who took Tamiflu was far below those who did not.
So far, these reports wouldn't change my view that olsetamivir is safe and effective, especially in the case of a pandemic.


At 10:14 PM, Anonymous don said...

heck, i think i'd take my chances with the flu... :)

At 12:03 AM, Anonymous Richard Reed said...

Can I just take Tamiflu for all possible influenza virus attacks? Or do I only take it for bird flu?

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous hans said...

"Of 32 million people treated with Tamiflu since its approval in 1999, 24 million were in Japan."

This is strange... more flu in Japan or cheaper Tamiflu or better marketing by Roche, or a combination... Who can enlighten us?

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Dr. Andy said...

As I understand it, physician reimbursement in Japan is largely dependent on selling of prescription meds to patients at a markup. Therefore, there is probably a big incentive to prescribe meds like Tamiflu. More so in the US where many physicians feel Tamiflu is a waste in most people since it only decreases duration of illness by about 2 days

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Japanese are using Tamiflu like we use to use antibiotics - could we see a flu virus that is resistance to Tamiflu? CDN R.N.

At 10:34 AM, Blogger Dr. Andy said...

Unfortunately yes, and there is already some data that the avian flu is developing resistance

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At 8:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you see the latest news report on Reuters? More deaths have been reported - and now we're in 2007. Thx for posting this entry on your blog - ppl need to know about it.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous generic cialis said...

so interested, I don't thing that the two deaths have any connection, I guess are completely separate!

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is tamiflu still safe now??

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