Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tamiflu or shamiflu?

So the MOH has raised the alert once again, to Orange this time. Byt actually the disease doesn't seem to be that fatal outside of the Mexican epicentre. Hopefully it will remain that way, because there is really no way from stopping the infection from becoming a full blown pandemic.

But never fear, Tamiflu is here!!! MOH says we have stockpiled enough drug. All 1.15 million doses. Yay!

But frankly, how much faith are we able to put in that wonder drug?

Errr..... My personal opinion is .....not much. There is a lot of focus on Tamiflu, really, not because of it's efficacy but because we have precious in terms of alternatives to put our faith in, i.e. the man of steel isn't going to swoop down and save us all. We look to Tamiflu because the public needs to feel gahment is doing something. This is not just a Singapore phenomenon, but happening globally.

So what are the facts....?

H1N1 isn't a new virus. The swine flu H1N1 strain is new....but other H1N1 strains have been circulating the globe for some time. In the US, 98.5% of H1N1 strains are resistant to Tamiflu. For those whose statistics desert them in moments like these, essentially Tamiflu doesn't work against circulating H1N1 strains.

But then again it is possible the the latest swine flu H1N1 strain is relatively new and may in fact be sensitive still to Tamiflu. So what does Tamiflu do? Well...Tamiflu is what is called a neuramidase inhibitor. For it to be effecttive it has to be given very early. Earlier the better. Problem is....symptoms begin only a few days after the infection, so you have lost a couple of very precious days. So health care workers comfort themselves by saying must give within 24-48 hours of first symptoms. That's really 4-5 days after infection.

But what are the effects of Tamiflu...? Apparently not much...despite being 'effective' against the virus, Tamiflu when given early merely speeds recovery and shortens the disease by 30%, or 1.3 days. I leave that to you to figure out how effective it is.

Possibly it may save some lives, but don't expect miracles. But like they say...better than nothing, lor...!


Anonymous said...

I guess the gahmen can't very well tell the public actually there is nothing much one can do for an infected person except to supportive management. Hence the "we have n number of flu vaccines and x number of tamiflu" propaganda. In case the public panics.

Already pharmacies have run out of hand sanitisers and masks. When actually only the N95 may be useful.. Influenza vaccines and tamiflu are flying off the shelves in GP clinics with patients placing orders and paying in advance. Drs explain that these things may not be effective but I supposed people feel better if they had done something rather than remaining passive. "Post traumatic stress disorder" from SARS?

gigamole said...

Yeah....kinda like that. No one really wants to admit that when the real pandemic hits, you don't really have a lot in your arsenal, and that's probably why the over-reaction in terms of preventive procedures. Really, if these drugs work, and you have enough stockpiled, who would worry?