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Tamiflu and swine flu

The influenza virus (e.g swine flu) has a gene that is responsible for making a protein called neuraminidase which helps the virus to escape the cell it has just infected so it can attack another cell in the body. Tamiflu is a drug that blocks the action of neuraminidase and so inhibits the spread of flu virus from one cell to another. Tamiflu has to be taken early on in the course of an infection to stand a good chance of working well. It can also be taken prophylactically to limit the spread of virus in the body.

Tamiflu is the trade name for the antiviral drug Oseltamivir. According to Wikipedia, Oseltamivir is "an antiviral drug, a neuraminidase inhibitor used in the treatment and prophylaxis of both influenza A and influenza B. Oseltamivir was the first orally active neuraminidase inhibitor commercially developed. It was developed by Gilead Sciences and is currently marketed by Hoffman-La Roche (Roche) under the trade name TamifluŽ."

Oseltamivir is indicated for the treatment and prevention of infections due to influenza A and B virus in people at least one year of age. The usual adult dosage for treatment of influenza is 75 mg twice daily for 5 days, beginning within 2 days of the appearance of symptoms and with decreased doses for children and patients with renal impairment. Oseltamivir may be given as a preventive measure either during a community outbreak of swine flu or following close contact with an infected individual.

Standard prophylactic dosage is 75 mg once daily for patients aged 13 and older, which has been shown to be safe and effective for up to six weeks. The importance of early treatment of swine flu is that the NA protein inhibition is more effective within the first 48 hours. If the virus has replicated and infected many cells the effectiveness of this medication will be severely diminished, especially over time.

Some people experience side effects after taking Tamiflu. For more news and information on this subject please see our "Side effects of Tamiflu" page.

Roche may be establishing partnerships around the world to increase Tamiflu production, but experts suggest that if--or when--a pandemic breaks out, it may be nearly impossible to acquire the drug.

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