The anti-viral drug called Tamiflu has been shown to be effective in treating the flu. Its also being investigated as a tool in battling the next pandemic flu.
But a new New England Journal of Medicine study shows at least two people treated with Tamiflu in Asia developed a resistance to the drug and died of the H-FIVE-N-ONE virus. Otherwise known as the avian flu.
University of Nevada School of Medicine's Dr. Trudy Larson an infectious disease specialist says, when studying viruses and their treatment this isn't unusual. " That just tells us that this is a virus that mutates, we have to remember that like other virus and that these medications are not going to be one-hundred percent and they will be subject to resistance and so we have to have very clear guidelines about when you use it."
Dr. Larson says this doesn't mean Tamiflu will or won't be used in the fight against avain flu or the next pandemic.
That's because we still don't know enough about the anti-viral drug to understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Roche the manufacturer of the drugs says higher dosages, longer treatment, and combined therapies may be the answer. But, Dr. Larson says what this study underscores....individual stockpiling of the anti-viral for self medicating can be dangerous as well. "That's how resistance develops common ways is when people use these drugs without a proper diagnosis In the wrong circumstances and in the wrong dosages."
Dr. Larson says besides building up a resistance to what otherwise might be an effective medication residents may put themselves at risk by buying the anti-viral medication from un-reputable sources.
In San Francisco today customs agents say they confiscated 50-shipments of counterfeit Tamiflu. According the agents the shipments were from Asian suppliers to individuals who placed orders on the internet. Dr. David Elder, FDA Enforcement Director says this kind of shipment doesn't come as a real surprise. "The threat of bird flu emerged as a public health concern the f-d-a anticipated the likelihood we'd see counterfeit products as well as fraudulent products and low and hold both of those predictions have come true .at this point."
While there are some questions as to whether Tamiflu will be the drug of choice when fighting the avian or even pandemic flu...experts say its still a vital medication for seasonal flu treatment.
The medication is most effective when taken within 48-hours of flu symptoms.