Double dose of antiviral medication Tamiflu in the cases of severe flu, advocated by many health experts, offers no significant benefits, says a new data trial by the South East Asia Infectious Disease Clinical Research Network.
Tamiflu is approved for people two weeks of age and older and may reduce the chance of getting the flu. Until 2010, the drug was approved only for emergency use in infants, but now is widely available under prescription for all patients.
In order to be effective, the medication must be used within 48 hours of the first symptoms' appearing. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, use of Tamiflu has led to 61 percent drop in hospital admissions. Such successful results have triggered the discussion over the most efficient dosage.
Currently, the standard dose determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for adults is 75 milligrams, twice daily for five days, but many doctors have believed that taking 150 mg daily may provide even better protection and survival rated, especially in the most serious cases.
This is not the case according to results of the randomized control data trial for Tamiflu. They were published in the British Medical Journal based on a study of 326 patients with severe flu infection in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore who were given standard or double doses for 5 days.
It was funded by the Singapore National Medical Research Council, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Wellcome Trust, and took took place between April 2007 and February 2010.
Study participants were tested on days 5 and 10 of treatment for antigens for the influenza virus. Antigens are an important part of a body's immune response, as they mark foreign bodies to be destroyed by the body's immune system. Antigens against the virus are associated with a smooth recovery form the flu.
The two groups showed little difference in the incidence of adverse reactions. About 17 percent of both single and double dose groups experienced adverse effects, including rashes, organ failure, and septic shock.
Mortality rates were similar for both dosing groups: 6 percent of those receiving a double dose and 7 percent of those receiving a single dose died from complications caused by the virus.
"Our findings do not support routine use of double doses to treat severe flu infections, which could help to conserve drug stocks in the event of a pandemic," said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Research Network.
Experts monitoring flu are worried about potential epidemic or even pandemic because of the recent strain of avian flu virus in China which has already taken away 36 people.
Although the H7N9 strain does not demonstrate the ability to easily move among humans, it keeps spreading in China and has showed first signs of developing resistance to oseltamivir (Tamiflu).
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