Since 2010, up to 49 million people in the United States have experience a bout with the influenza virus. In any given flu season, up to 20% of the population in every country around the world will experience the health impacts of this virus. It results in over 30 million outpatient visits in the U.S. each year, along with at least 200,000 hospitalizations.
With our advances in medical science, it can be easy to forget how deadly this virus can be. 58% of the deaths which occur each year because of this virus are in the 65+ age demographic, as are 70% of the hospitalizations that occur. Some other groups are more susceptible to influenza as well, including children younger than the age of 5, residents of nursing homes, women who are pregnant, and people who have a weakened immune system or a chronic illness.
Approximately two-thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, which can also impact the prevalence of the flu. Individuals with a body mass index of 40 or higher are also at a higher risk of catching this virus. During the 2017-2018 flu season, over 80,000 people died.
Although antibiotics will not help someone fight off this virus, Tamiflu is a prescription medication that may provide benefits for some people. It was approved by the CDC for use in 2009 for people who had confirmed cases of the H1N1 version of the virus.
If you are thinking about filling a Tamiflu prescription for yourself or your family, then these are the pros and cons you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Tamiflu
1. This medication might speed up your recovery time if you catch the flu.
When patients start taking Tamiflu within 48 hours of becoming sick with the influenza virus, then they can recover up to one day faster on average when compared to individuals who do not take anything for their illness. Roche, who is the maker of this medication, claims that patients can also reduce the number of serious complications from the flu virus, such as pneumonia or hospitalization.
2. Tamiflu may help to prevent an illness from the flu virus.
When this medication is used to prevent the bothersome symptoms of influenza before they start, people who were exposed to the virus were able to reduce their likelihood of becoming sick by up to 55%. When combined with other flu-prevention techniques such as washing your hands, receiving the flu vaccine each season, and avoiding contact with sick family members, friends, and associations, this option may be a way to help vulnerable populations reduce their exposure to this deadly disease.
3. It can reduce or prevent the dangerous complications of influenza.
Although people with compromised immune systems are at the most significant risk of experiencing a serious complication from an influenza strain, even health people can develop problems from this virus. Bacterial pneumonia is a significant concern. If you have a fever that lingers or shortness of breath that changes your breathing patterns, then you should alert your doctor right away.
Bre Payton, a conservative writer and contributor to Fox News, died at the age of 26 after a sudden bout with the influenza virus. Testing found that she had the H1N1 strain of the virus and possibly meningitis. That is why everyone should take the flu virus seriously, even if they are generally healthy.
4. There is no currently known antiviral resistance to Tamiflu.
According to information provided by the CDC, the antiviral resistance to the active ingredients in Tamiflu which is circulating among the current strains of influenza is currently low. This advantage may change in the future as more people receive the medication, especially as a preventative measure after being exposed to the virus. There are a handful of other antiviral drugs which could have a positive impact for a patient dealing with the flu even if resistance to Tamiflu occurs.
5. It can be a way for some people to get back to work sooner.
Some people who fall into low-risk categories may choose to take Tamiflu because it can shorten the amount of time that they need to adjust their daily routine. When the average person contracts the influenza virus, it can take them off of their feet for up to 10 days. It may also create a higher risk of a secondary bacterial infection once it has run its course. By taking this drug to reduce the time that they are sick, it is possible to get back to the usual routine sooner while also potentially reducing the risk of infecting other people.
6. Tamiflu may prevent an infection in high-risk children.
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu are up to 90% effective in preventing and influenza infection in children. That’s why they are important for preventing the flu in those who have a higher risk for complications within 48 hours of their exposure. For children who are under the age of five, pneumonia and respiratory failure are significant complications that a doctor may wish to treat with this medication. If they have cerebral palsy, heart disease, liver or kidney problems, epilepsy, or blood disorders, this option could be a way to preserve their health.
7. This drug is effective for infants.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved Tamiflu for administration to infants, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend using this medication to treat infants who are under 14 days old that I have contracted influenza. They also recommend using this drug for children between the ages of 3 to 12 months since they have a higher risk of flu complications that other child demographics.
8. Tamiflu applies to all strains of the influenza virus.
If you received the flu shot in 2018, then you received a vaccination that was 47% effective against the influenza viruses that were active during that season. When you receive this inoculation, then you are getting a treatment option that will focus on specific types of the virus that researchers believe will be active during that year. When you take Tamiflu, it does not matter what strain of the virus you have contracted. It is effective against all known strains that currently make people sick every year.
List of the Cons of Tamiflu
1. There is the cost of Tamiflu to consider.
If you are prescribed Tamiflu as a way to treat your influenza infection, then the cost of the medication is approximately $120. That will either come out of your pocket or dad of your insurance agency. There is a legitimate debate to consider if the amount of money that someone must shell out to buy 24 hours of relief is worth the investment. If you don’t catch your symptoms soon enough, then you might be spending money on this product without a tangible benefit to show for it either.
2. It requires you to receive treatment in the earliest stages of influenza.
Tamiflu is most effective when the symptoms caused by the influenza virus are caught in the earliest stages. When you can administer this medication within the first 24 hours of onset, then symptom reduction can occur in as little as 15 hours, but it can be as much as 29 hours if you fall within the 48-hour window. Some studies also reverse those numbers, suggesting that it is better to wait for the medication until the bothersome symptoms of the flu are running their full course.
3. Tamiflu may cause significant side effects in some population demographics.
Mark Ebell reviewed the outcomes of people who had taken Tamiflu for their influenza symptoms and found that some groups could experience significant and serious side effects after taking the medication. One of the groups most at risk in his team’s data review were Japanese children under the age of 16. They found that this product could cause confusion, hallucinations, delirium, convulsions, encephalitis, and other abnormal behavior. The prescription protocol in Japan is similar to that of the U.S., so the vulnerability does bring up critical questions to ask.
4. The results of Tamiflu may be overstated by the manufacturer of the medication.
A Cochrane review of the information from Tamiflu studies found that the medication did not reduce the hospitalization rate when it was prescribed in the appropriate window for administration. They also discovered that it only shorted the duration of symptoms from the virus by 17 hours. Although that amount of time is not insignificant if you are battling numerous bothersome symptoms simultaneously, it is essential to remember that this drug is not a substitute for early vaccination.
5. There are common side effects of Tamiflu that are worth considering as well.
The most common side effects of this drug are nausea and vomiting. Some people may also experience abdominal pain when they are suffering from these issues. The symptoms are not usually severe, and they typically show up during the first couple of days when taking Tamiflu. It is a 5-day drug course, so by the time most people begin to develop bothersome side effects from the medication, they are almost done with it anyway. Some people have skin or allergic reactions to this medication as well.
6. Tamiflu has nine drug interactions to consider, give of which are moderate in severity.
Tamiflu is known to interact moderately with the flu vaccines that are administered each year. It will also potentially increase the side effects of methotrexate when someone is taking the drug for certain forms of arthritis. It also interacts with Alimta, which may increase your chances of infection, bleeding problems, nerve damage, or anemia when taken together. You will want to make sure that you discuss all of your medications with your doctor when experiencing the flu to ensure that you can avoid this potential disadvantage.
7. You can only obtain this medication by visiting your doctor.
This drug is not currently offered in an over-the-counter manner. You must visit with a doctor, who will then decide whether or not this medication is the best option available to treat your influenza symptoms. That means you will face the potential cost of an office visit with your medical provider depending on what your healthcare insurance happens to be. Your provider may also decide that an alternative treatment option is a better solution or are they might suggest that simple home care remedies will help you to start feeling better.
8. Antiviral resistance to Tamiflu could change in the future.
One of the biggest struggles that we have with the influenza virus is that it has an incredible ability to mutate and adapt. These viruses are constantly changing, and they can do so in two different ways. The first is called antigenic drift, which features small changes to the genes of the virus that happen as it replicates. They are closely related to one another, but it can create enough of a change over time that they become different enough that the immune system doesn’t recognize it.
The second option is called antigenic shift, which is an abrupt and significant change that is generally found in the influenza A series of viruses. These result in new proteins that develop, such as when the H1N1 virus occurred in the spring of 2009 and spread quickly because people had little or no protection against infection. Although antiviral resistance is low today, these issues could negate that advantage in the future.
9. There can be unrealistic expectations for Tamiflu that impact its effectiveness.
There are some people who do not believe that this drug actually works. This disadvantage is usually related more to using Tamiflu incorrectly or having an unrealistic expectation of its outcome than the performance of the medication itself. The effectiveness of this treatment option depends on when the treatment is started, the underlying health of the patient involved, and several other factors that may be present. It is not unusual to miss the first mild symptoms of the flu, which can prevent this drug from maximizing its full potential.
The pros and cons of Tamiflu are ultimately crucial points of information that you should discuss with your doctor if you suspect that you’ve caught the influenza virus. Although most people recover completely from the flu with only minor interventions and home remedies, this medication provides as second line of defense for people who are in vulnerable population groups. Only you can decide if taking this product is appropriate for your health needs.