In the middle of the disturbing flu season, health officials are now pushing doctors to prescribe antiviral drugs regularly.
On Friday a news alert was sent to the doctors by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advising regular use of Tamiflu and other antiviral drugs for the flu patients and others at high risk of complications like pneumonia.
CDC officials say that the worst flu attack is more dangerous to young children and very elderly people. In addition to that the flu vaccines is not working against the virus as the virus has come along with a mutated version. So “it’s more important than usual” that doctors treat certain patients with Tamiflu or other antiviral medications, CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said at a press conference Friday.
An increasing flu that spread from 43 to 46 states in a week is now facing a little drop as reported in by states, which according to some researchers could be the end of this worst flu season.
The flu season tends to last about 13 weeks and the data from CDC suggests that the nation is about seven weeks in, Frieden said. “It seems we’re right in the middle of flu season,” he said.
On another node in some states which the number of flu encounters are decreased, an increment from some stated has also been reported. Health officials say that it is unclear that whether flu has peaked overall or not.
CDC research suggests doctors prescribe antivirals to one in five high-risk flu patients. CDC officials say the number should be higher.
A number of studies have found that the regular use of antivirals can shorten the amount of time if someone is sick with flu. The drugs also can prevent patients from becoming sick enough to end up in a hospital intensive care unit — or worse, Frieden said.
“Antiviral flu medicines save lives,” he said.
A first alert was sent to the physicians last month regarding the severeness of this flu season and encouraging treatment of the patients using antivirals and now the second alert was sent this Friday repeating the previous recommendations and pointed the approval of the new antiviral that is approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month. It’s called Rapivab, and is an infusion that can be given to sick patients who aren’t able to take Tamiflu pills or another, inhalable antiviral medicine called Relenza.
According to CDC officials Doctors are cautious regarding prescribing this drug as they need lab confirmation first. In cases in which patients delayed seeking treatment, doctors may worry the patients are already be too far into the illness for the drugs to do much good.
Last year, a respected international network of researchers — the Cochrane Collaboration — published a review of past studies on the medications, and found there was no good evidence to support claims that Tamiflu reduces flu complications or flu-related hospitalizations. At best, it shortens flu symptoms by half a day, the Cochrane report said.
The CDC shouldn’t push antivirals unless they have a strong proof regarding the prevention and key complications in the patients, said one of the Cochrane study’s authors, Peter Doshi, in an interview Friday. He is an assistant professor at the University Of Maryland School Of Pharmacy.
CDC officials say the Cochrane review had limitations; for example, Cochrane was more concerned of the high-quality studies but none that included hospitalized patients.
CDC officials say the agency is more concerned with the observational studies, which are considered less rigorous than the research Cochrane focused on, but which offered a look at what happened in hospitalized patients. And that research did find a benefit. Also, there aren’t really other options: Against flu, antiviral medicines are what’s left in the medical arsenal when the vaccine doesn’t work, experts say.