Local News

Apr 10, 2014 2:25 PM by Sara Donchey

Study Questions Effectiveness of Popular Influenza Drug Tamiflu

PORTLAND -- Tamiflu--it's one of the only weapons doctors have against influenza once a patient already has it.

But a new study out today shows even that may not be working.

A global research group known as the Cochrane Collaboration tested Tamiflu and a similar drug, Relenza, on 24 thousand people.

Researchers found it only shortened symptoms for a day and a half.

They also didn't find any proof that the drugs work to stop the flu once you have it or prevent it from spreading.

But doctors say their hands are tied.

They're left to choose between prescribing Tamiflu or doing nothing. It's a risk local doctors say they don't want to take.

"(For) somebody that I'm pretty sure has a killer disease, I'm probably going to air on the side of going ahead and treating, rather than going 'Oh this study shows it may not be as good as we thought," said local physician Dr. James Mobley.

So what about another option?

Doctors say alternative drugs have been used to treat the flu, but without much success.

"We have some old Parkinson's Disease drugs that are useful for (treating the flu) and there's a drug called Relenza that's actually a part of this study," Mobley said. "(But) it's not been shown to be much better."

Part of the problem is the nature of the virus itself.

And even with so many advances in modern medicine, Dr. Mobley isn't surprised that we don't have a cure-all medicine for the flu.

"Viruses mutate very rapidly. And so it's very hard to get a drug that'll do this. So, no--I'm not surprised at all. And I doubt that in our lifetime we'll see anything."

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