Thursday, April 30, 2009

Please Don't Ask Me for Tamiflu

On the one hand, our 24/7 news cycle which includes the Internet.etc has made people more aware of the threat of Swine Flu. One advantage of having the latest, up to date information is that it may actually be able to help prevent the spread and diminish the effects of what is likely a pandemic. On the other hand, it has the potential to create confusion and hysteria.
I am not trying to trivialize the seriousness of this. The World Health Organization continues to raise the threat level on Swine Flu, and it is having a devastating effect in Mexico. However, many patients want to do something to protect themselves. This is not helped when the Vice President warns that folks should stay off airlines and subways.

I have already received several requests from patient for prescriptions for Tamiflu and Relenza, "just in case." This is a BAD idea. First, though the CDC has reported that the Swine Flu is likely susceptible to these agents, hording drugs may make them unavailable to the folks who really need them. For the regular flu, these medications work, but without a substantial effect and there is no good data that taking such medications will actually prevent serious complications of the Swine Flu. Most importantly, unnecessary use of antibiotics and anti-viral medications cause resistance and make these medications less useful. Less than 2 months ago, we found out that the dominant strain of the regular flu virus was becoming resistant to Tamiflu. Thus, we need to reserve these medications for people who really need it.

What can you do now?
Don't ask your doctor for Tamiflu or Relenza prescriptions.
Stay informed. The CDC website it the best place to go.

(from the CDC)

Take everyday actions to stay healthy.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

  • Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

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