Tamiflu may be useless against swine flu warns leading doctor

The GP warned the Government’s “pill for every ill” strategy could have disastrous results

express.co.uk | Jul 28, 2009

by Nicola McCafferty

SWINE flu could become resistant to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu because it is being over-prescribed, a leading GP warned today.

Dr Peter Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead GP on pandemic flu, has blasted health ministers for encouraging the public to rely on limited-supplies of Tamiflu if they develop symptoms of swine flu.

The GP warned the Government’s “pill for every ill” strategy could have disastrous results if the H1N1 virus becomes immune to Tamiflu.

Writing in Pulse, Mr Holden revealed: “People are finding it a bit hard to swallow that we are getting beaten up by the Department of Health for antibiotics prescribing but that the same principle doesn’t seem to apply to the judicious use of Tamiflu.”

Mr Holden, who helped draft the clinical algorithm used by operators on the National Flu Service telephone line, piled more pressure on Labour over their handling of the pandemic.

“Both Andy Burnham and Sir Liam Donaldson have contradicted themselves by telling the public they can have Tamiflu if and when they want it, but at the same time telling GPs to use their clinical judgement,” he blasted.

The warning came as the Lords’ science and technology committee lashed out at the Government for not setting up the National Flu Service helpline in April as planned.

The report said: “In November 2008 we were told that the system was ’being delivered and tested in early 2009’, a timetable which would have to be reviewed in the event of an increase in likelihood of a pandemic.

“However, on 27 April 2009, Lord Darzi, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, announced that the flu line would be ’up and running in autumn of this year’.”

Controversial new research unveiled today revealed limited supplies of Tamiflu should be rationed and elderly swine flu victims should be sent to the back of the queue to receive the drug.

Scientists said the most effective way to treat the pandemic is to reverse the policy adopted during outbreaks of normal seasonal flu – when priority is given to the over-65s – and treat younger adults first.

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