The 2017-2018 influenza season is turning out to be quite horrendous. Early estimates are that the flu vaccine is only about ten percent effective this year. If you’ve been properly diagnosed with the flu, you might have been recommended the most common treatment for the flu: an anti-viral medication called Tamiflu (also known as Oseltamivir). But does Tamiflu really work and is it worth taking anti-viral medications?

What Is Tamiflu?

Before I get started with whether or not Tamiflu works, let me do a little background on Tamiflu. Tamiflu is an anti-viral medication that is frequently prescribed to those people who test positive for the flu. It’s believed that if the medication is prescribed within three days of the onset of symptoms caused by influenza, Tamiflu will help to lessen the severity and length of the illness. It’s also believed that Tamiflu will help decrease hospital admissions caused by influenza.

Does Tamilflu Work?

One of the best ways to conduct research is to conduct a review of all available research with strict criteria. Taking a look all available research allows for a larger sample size of the population and a greater insight as to an overall study. The Cochrane Review did just that with the Tamiflu medication.

How The Study Worked:  

The review looked at at over twenty studies in a review of the effectiveness and benefit of tamiflu that totaled 9,623 people.

What The Study Found: 

  • In adults, Tamiflu only reduced the time of the first onset of symptoms to feeling better by only 16.8 hours. This means that taking tamiflu only reduces the time of feeling sick by less than one day – and that’s only when it’s properly prescribed.
  • In children with asthma, Tamiflu had no shortening effect.
  • In healthy children, Tamiflu reduced the length of illness by about 29 hours.
  • Tamiflu had no significant effect on reducing hospitalizations for those people who had been previously treated with the medication.
  • Tamiflu did not significantly reduce serious complications caused by the flu in both adults and children.
  • Tamiflu significantly reduced pneumonia. However, this was only self-reported and unconfirmed pneumonia. Pneumonia is diagnosed by a chest x-ray or CT scan. Tamiflu did not significantly reduce pneumonia in trials that used a more detailed diagnostic form of diagnosing pneumonia. In all the studies – no definitions of pneumonia were used.  No tamiflu studies reported the effects on cases of pneumonia that had been confirmed with a radiology study.  
  • Tamiflu did not reduce the risk of bonchitis, sinusitis, and ear infections in adults.
  • Taking Tamiflu for prevention (before an individual had the flu) had a significant effect on reducing symptoms of influenza in individuals and households.

So, there you go – those are the detailed conclusions after taking a look at several clinical trials that looked at the effectiveness of Tamiflu. In general, the drug doesn’t do very much. Despite that, it’s prescribed so frequently. It’s even prescribed in cases where individuals have had the flu for longer than seventy-two hours or when they haven’t even had a confirmed case of the flu. Taking the medication is up to you.

One thing to take into consideration, anti-viral medications build up resistance just like antibiotics. Just like bacteria, viruses have incredibly short lives and are always rapidly changing. Taking anti-viral medications unnecessarily can lead to anti-viral resistance.

Sources:

Jefferson, T. Et. Al. Neuraminidase Inhibitors For Preventing and Treating Influenza In Adults and Children. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews. 10 April 2014. Web. 18 January 2018.