With swine flu claiming five lives in Mumbai this year, the debate over the use of Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat the disease has risen yet again.
Two leading global health care authorities — the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC) and Food and Drug Administration, USA, (US FDA) — have contradictory views about the efficacy of the drug that is often administered, as part of the standard procedure in cases of swine flu.
According to the CDC, the drug can help keep patients out of hospital and even save lives. The US FDA, however, states Oseltamivir has not been “proven to have a positive impact on the potential consequences (such as hospitalisation, mortality, or economic impact)”.
In an article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the CDC director was quoted as saying, “The CDC’s review of the evidence provides consistent support for the observation that early treatment with Oseltamivir can reduce the risk of death among hospitalised patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza infection.”
Doctors in the city agree with the CDC’s stand on the efficacy of swine flu. However, they feel the drug, should not be used as blanket treatment measure. “I have observed that Tamiflu gives best results if it is administered within 48-72 hours, after it is confirmed that a patient is suffering from swine flu,” said Dr Ashit Hegde, intensivist at PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim. “However, in many cases, patients react to the drug and in such cases, I would avoid pushing the use of the drug,” said Hegde.
Endorsing the drug, Dr Om Srivastava, infectious diseases expert, said, “The US FDA seems to be grossly mistaken or maybe they are looking at the cost alone. From 2009-10 until now, if we did not have Tamiflu, the scenario in the city would have been vastly different with regard to swine flu.”