Ministry rejects study indicating Tamiflu doesn't work on kids

The Health Ministry has dismissed the conclusionsof a new University of Oxford study claiming there is "no clearevidence" that the prescription antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenzaprevent complications in children who have seasonal influenza.

The study was published this week in the online edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Known as neuraminidase inhibitors, these drugs are being givento children and adults at high risk for complications from the H1N1 fluvirus as well.

The authors write that it is difficult to know the extent towhich their findings can be generalized to children in the currentswine flu pandemic. However, based on current evidence, the effects ofantivirals on reducing the course of illness or preventingcomplications might be limited, the researchers headed by Dr. MatthewThompson claim.

The team conducted a review of four trials on thetreatment of flu in 1,766 children (1,243 with confirmed flu, 55 to 69%with type A, the same strain as swine flu) and three trials involvingthe use of antivirals to limit the spread of flu.

They conclude that while antivirals shorten the duration of fluin children by up to 36 hours, the expensive drugs have "little or noeffect" on complications in children such as flareups of asthma,increased ear infections or the likelihood of children needingantibiotics.

Some who had Tamiflu, they say, were more likely to suffer from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Prof. Dan Engelhard, a leading Hadassah University MedicalCenter pediatrician and a ministry adviser on infectious diseases, saidthat "Tamiflu has been given to a very large number of children inIsrael and abroad for H1N1 flu. Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea arewell-known side effects of the flu, but they are not dangerous and notcommon."

"Tamiflu has been proven effective in treating children andadults who are sick with the flu," said Engelhard, whose views wereendorsed by the ministry.

Giving Tamiflu to children at high risk is very important, anddoctors and parents should not conclude on the basis of the Universityof Oxford study that such treatment is unnecessary, the ministry said.

But Tamiflu should be given only by a doctor's prescription,according to the physician's familiarity with the patient and hiscondition.