Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu: Do NOT stock up on antivirals

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a comment from Jon LaPook, M.D., chief medical correspondent, CBS Evening News (with Katie Couric). I had in an earlier blog referred to swine flu and some of the tips Jon had recommended. In it, I mention one of the tips as: ‘Keep a stock of antivirals’. However, I stand corrected. It should have read: ‘Skip stockpiling antivirals’. Jon also provides an excerpt:

"Skip stockpiling antivirals. We all love to have control, and if not actual control then at least the illusion of control. Enter Tamiflu and Relenza, the anti-viral drugs that can lessen the severity of flu if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Why not hoard them now? Shouldn't you have some "just in case"? For most healthy people, the answer is an emphatic “no,” something I confirmed today with both the CDC and the New York City Department of Health. Yet I called several New York City pharmacies this afternoon and was told there’s been a run on Tamiflu. As a physician, I know how tough it can be to “just say no” to an insistent, worried patient. And I haven’t totally gone over to the dark side of not remembering what it’s like to be a patient; believe me, there’s an insistent, worried patient hiding inside many physicians, myself included. But inappropriate use of Tamiflu and Relenza can lead to the swine flu becoming resistant to these medications – the same thing that’s happened with overuse of antibiotics. The virus is sensitive to these drugs now but that could change with overuse.

In addition, shortages created by hoarding would hamper our ability to treat patients with regular flu, which affects millions of people and kills about 36,000 annually in the U.S. And shortages during an outbreak of swine flu might contribute to a more rapid spread of the virus. So, ironically, the unused Tamiflu in your medicine cabinet could increase the likelihood of the disease infecting you and your loved ones."



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