Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tamiflu danger

Thanks to an anonymous commentator who pointed me to this story:

Two teenage boys who took the antiviral drug Tamiflu exhibited abnormal behavior that lead to their deaths -- one jumped in front of an oncoming truck and the other apparently fell from a building, the Mainichi Shimbun reported Saturday.

I would be a bit skepitical about cause and effect here. Roche is making ~55 million doses of the medicine this year and two teenagers have died, both of deaths that could have been accidental or suicide. It is unfortunately not rare for teenagers to commit suicide (or have fatal accidents) even without a known history of depression or other illness.

I think we'll have to wait and see if more cases are reported now that the possible association has been raised. If a flood of similar cases emerges, I'd be more convinced. I can't offhand think what the mechanism linking the medicine and erratic behavior or suicide

UPDATE: changes in behavior are NOT a recognized side effect of olsetamivir (Tamiflu) according to this review:
Oseltamivir has few adverse effects when administered for either treatment or prophylaxis. The most frequent side effects are transient nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, which occur in approximately 5 to 10 percent of patients.

UPDATE 2: More possible deaths and non-fatal cases of neurological and psychiatric disturbances, all from Japan here. My comments here