Helen Macdonald on side effects, Tamiflu, and the swine flu hotline

Helen Macdonald A hundred and five thousand people with flu symptoms were prescribed Tamiflu via the new hotline last week. But there are some unintended consequences. Although consultation rates for flu like symptoms are levelling, Pulse magazine reports on a new problem. Now patients are making appointments to see their GP complaining of the side effects of Tamiflu.

Dr Nigel Watson, chief executive of Wessex LMCs and a GP in New Milton, Hampshire told Pulse: “On balance, the swine flu line has taken a lot of the queries off, but there are people presenting with the side effects. It’s not the innocuous drug that the general public seem to think it is.”

There may be problems with misdiagnosis too via the hotline. In the same article another GP, Dr Mark Aley, reported seeing three patients in one day who had taken Tamiflu, although it was clear to him another diagnosis was behind their symptoms – such as tonsillitis.

“There are loads of people being misdiagnosed because of all the hype,” he said.

The side effects of antivirals have hit the headlines of the national press. Some newspapers report the findings of a cross-sectional survey study about the side effects of Oseltamivir in three London schools, published in Eurosurveillance.

103 respondents (40% response rate) took prophylactic medication in April or May. 53% experienced one or more side effect, 40% had gastrointestinal side effects, and 18% had mild neuropsychiatric effects, such as nightmares. 48% finished the course. These results broadly reflect other evidence emerging.

Speaking to The Times about the findings, Peter Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead on swine flu, suggested that antivirals were being overused. He said: “The National Pandemic Flu Service has been a great success, and was needed to take the pressure off GPs, but the threshold for getting Tamiflu should be quite high. For patients who are not in the high-risk groups this virus typically causes mild symptoms and does not require a course of Tamiflu. Patients in the at-risk groups should be referred to their GP, who will use their clinical judgment.”

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) told Pulse magazine that it will continue to monitor the safety of Tamiflu and Relenza as their use increases.

Helen Macdonald is editorial registrar, BMJ.

  • Emanuel van den Bemd

    The allopathic lobby only accepts the narrow viewpoint that tamiflu, vaccinations, wearing masks and hand washing protects us against any flu. There is no scientific evidence that any of these precautions actually work, but the medical culture is such that these claims are never challenged
    What does work is Vitamin D3, nano silver and Sodium Clorite(NaClO2) These effective agents are ruthlessly suppressed because the medical industry wont tolerate any treatments that will ensure vibrant good health. Modern medicine only treats the symptoms not the cause. Treating to heal or cure is not one of their options because there is no money to be made from healthy people.

  • Dan

    What’s your scientific evidence that these non-“allopathic” methods work?

    Silver nanoparticles are indeed being researched. Contrary to the claim scientific medicine is willing to research anything that may be beneficial.

  • ali smith

    I’m pretty sure that I have had Swine Flu – it was past when you are tested. I woke up one morning feeling OK, a lttle later I felt rough, hot and clammy, sneezing and coughing. I’m on long term steroids for RA, so that makes me high risk but also inhibits temp. When I hit 101 degrees I called my GP and received Tamiflu. Because I received it very quickly, within 6 hours of symptoms – I believe it works, also my son. aged 19, an asthmatic was given Tamiflu as a preventative at half dose, but when he showed symptoms of ‘Flu he took full dose. It helped us, so don’t be scared of Tamiflu

  • Freddy

    I’ve also heard information that Tamiflu does not work in reality. So that’s what I tell you – this is nonsense. I’ll just come out of the hospital, where the analysis confirmed that I am fully recovered from swine influenza. And I was treated only Tamiflu. I began to take it immediately as soon as he felt unwell and took a week and recovered. Severe side effects are not noticed on several occasions nausea and headache. I bought my brother a drug internet pharmacy in the United States. (not ads) http://www.ekpharm.org

  • Emanuel van den Bemd

    Dan, I presume you are directing your question to me about non allopathic methods.
    Vit D, nano silver and sodium chlorite were all allopathic methods used almost a hundred years ago but since the development of antibiotics everything that was known to be effective was dropped in favour of toxic invasive treatments that suppress or block homeostasis and normal metabolic function.
    There is plenty of scientific literature about these healing and curing agents if you are only willing to look for them .
    The fact is that governments and big business cartels have highjacked the medical industry in an effort to subject the masses to a poisonous environment in order to maime and make a killing from it both figuratively and in reality. If you can not see the implication of this in regard to your own well being, I wish you luck.