Doctor: Tamiflu not for all flu cases

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Anti-viral medication like Tamiflu may limit flu symptoms, but it’s not for every situation.

Dr. Bert Wofford of Roosevelt General Hospital said he prescribes Tamiflu for patients who test positive for the flu, or who have flu-like symptoms along with a high risk for complications or exposure to someone with a high risk.

“We have the leeway to treat them symptomatically,” he said.

Because the flu test is 60 percent accurate, Wofford said, doctors would miss treating 40 percent of flu cases if they didn’t treat people based on symptoms despite what the test says.

“We’ve had people asking about (Tamiflu), and we’ve had some well people come to be examined, and we just send them on their way,” he said.

Portales pharmacist Tawnia Gaylor of CJ’s Pill Box said she had been getting a lot of calls from people asking if they could get Tamiflu to stop or prevent the flu.

“And that is not how Tamiflu or anti-viral drugs work,” Gaylor said. “They’re not the magic bullet; they’re not the cure; they won’t stop it.”

First, Tamiflu and the other medicine for flu, Relenza, require prescriptions.

Also, Gaylor said, both medications must be started within 48 hours of the beginning of symptoms to have any effect.

Tamiflu and Relenza don’t cure the flu; they only keep the virus from reproducing as quickly or as much.

“And because of that, then the symptoms should be less severe and duration should not be as long,” Gaylor said.

Because of the way the anti-viral medications work, they don’t function as preventatives.

If people use those medicines when they’re not sick or have something besides the flu, Gaylor said, the viruses always present in the body are inhibited but also become resistant to the treatment.

Then, when the person catches the flu, the already-present viruses pass on the resistance to the flu virus and mutate. This gives the medicine much less effect, if any, Gaylor said.

Also, Gaylor said Tamiflu should be saved for people with active symptoms or high risk of complications, rather than stockpiled by healthy individuals “just in case.”

Tamiflu is hard to come by because manufacturers couldn’t keep up with the demand and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Tamiflu distributors are rationing it, Gaylor said.

However, she said Relenza, which is for people age 7 and up, is readily available, just as effective and less expensive. Gaylor attributes the higher demand for Tamiflu to more publicity.

To handle the flu:

• If taking anti-viral medicine or antibiotics, take it for the full amount of time directed for full effectiveness.

• Drink fluids. Coffee, caffeinated tea and sodas don’t count. Instead, drink water, juice, lemonade, sports drinks or herbal, non-caffeinated tea.

• Consume honey. It stimulates the immune system, helps break up congestion and soothes the throat.

• Rest.

• Remember fever isn’t bad unless it’s higher than 101 degrees F in adults or 102 degrees F in children. Use anti-fever medicine if fever persists for at least four hours.

• Multi-vitamins, Vitamin C, zinc and herbal supplements echinacea and golden seal can help fight a virus. They also help with prevention, but echinacea and golden seal should be taken only for a short time.

• To best fight fever, headaches and body aches, alternate use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, taking a dose of one every six hours.

• Follow directions for medication. More isn’t better.

Source: Tawnia Gaylor