Influenza pill Tamiflu from Roche AG can effectively tackle pneumonia in children, according to a recent study. Similarly, the drug, administered on severely sick adults suffering from influenza can reduce the risk of death considerably, another study indicated.
According to the first study, children with flu and who are on Tamiflu are 53 per cent less likely to develop pneumonia than children not put on the antiviral, Roche said.
The second study indicated that when the drug is given to adults with influenza, it reduced their risk of death by 71 per cent.
The two studies were presented at the Interscience Congress on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Francisco recently.
According to statistics available with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu kills 36,000 people every year in the U.S. and puts up to 200,000 in the hospital. Around the world, the disease leads to casualties in the range of 250,000 to 500,000 every year. The deaths are mostly caused by complications leading to the onset of pneumonia and in some cases due to other bacterial and secondary infection.
Tamiflu, or oseltamivir, which is made by Roche under license from Gilead Sciences has been an effective treatment for the disease. The other drug in the market is Relenza from GlaxoSmithKline.
In the first study, researchers went through health insurance records of 15,000 children aged one to 12 and at least 2.6 per cent of them with pneumonia and found that those who received Tamiflu within one day of diagnosis of influenza were 53 per cent less likely to develop pneumonia, compared with children who did not receive the drug.
The second study done at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, covered 512 patients admitted to the hospital with influenza. Some 84 per cent of the patients were treated with antibiotics, aimed at stopping bacterial infections, and 32 per cent with antivirals, mostly Tamiflu. There were 25 deaths in the study, 22 among persons over age 65, most of the deaths occurring in the people who were not treated with Tamiflu.
The researchers said medical practitioners should recognize that that influenza is a disease caused by virus and antivirals work on viruses whereas antibiotics do not.
Tamiflu is now routinely prescribed to victims of bird flu and doctors say if given quickly enough, it appears to save lives.