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Tamiflu Sales Drop as Drug-Resistance Rises

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, February 01, 2008 11:04 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family, In The Workplace
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs

Tamiflu Sales are down as flu drug resistance is up.

  Image: Influenza pandemic 1918, courtesy CDC


Go out and get a flu shot, is the recommendation most of us hear. But that recommendation flies in the face of the fact that the flu virus is evolving to survive the best known flu fighter, Tamiflu.

More than ten percent of the viruses taken from Western Europe this winter showed resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu).  The same story in Canada.  Japan shows a three percent resistance. In the U.S. seven percent of our flu have evolve to resist treatment.  

But the story is not the same around the world. In Norway, for example, the majority of samples 75 percent were drug-resistant.

Sari Setiogi of the World Health Organization says we needn’t worry too much – the flu bug has been around for years. Influenza A would be expected to adapt to survive treatment but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily more dangerous.  Among the Norwegian flu victims, all had mild symptoms.  

But the outstanding question is why would Norwegian population have the most drug resistant variation?  The expectation is the overuse eventually leads to resistance as those drug resistant bugs replicate and pass on drug-resistance to other virus bugs. But most Norwegians don’t use Tamiflu which reduces symptoms. Instead they get rest and drink fluids.

“Clearly this is of global concern, but it is not a global problem now,” Dr. Frederick G. Hayden an influenza expert at the W.H.O. told the  New York Times

Evolving drug resistance is what has happened to two other flu remedies amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine  (Flumadine). Because influenza A appears to have become resistant to those drugs -- U.S. health experts recommend against the use of these antivirals.

All of this is not good news to Tamiflu maker Hoffman-LaRoche. Sales dropped in the second half of last year. The drug maker says the market was saturated as countries have met their goal for Tamiflu stockpiles in the event of an avian flu pandemic.  The good news – so far the bird flu (H5 N1) shows little resistance to Tamiflu.

Influenza kills about 1 million people a year worldwide, 36,000 in the U.S. alone. Still the majority of adults do not get a flu shot.  #


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