Why Flu treatment is useless for most people...

Ok…so there is only so much you can write about blood work to make it interesting and informative, unless it’s your own labs of course.  In that spirit, I’ve decided to change the content of the posts to provide some general, useful (I think) topics in medicine which will tend to focus on emergency medicine. The point of starting this whole little project was to provide access to how doctors think while simultaneously make all of it understandable.  If you, or someone you know still wants their blood work reviewed…we still do that.  For future posts, we’ll start with a topic on Facebook and then carry it over to our health blog for further reading. Comments on the posts, topics you personally want to hear about or just general comments will be welcomed and considered.  This is a work in progress so feedback and requests are always appreciated.  Let us know what you think of the idea! If it doesn’t leave you a little informed, it may just provide you with a conversation piece at your next cocktail party.  On that note, in the spirit of the season (no I’m not talking about lent) let’s talk about why the treatment for the flu is mostly useless…

I’m sure this post will have the Gentec lawyers (part of Roche) after me within the week! Gentec makes Tamiflu the current prescription medication used to treat the flu which is also known as oseltamivir.  All this flu nonsense has been going on since early human existence (please note this is an educated guess), but the use of wide spread treatment of the flu really became popular after the swine flu outbreak in 2009.  Every major health organization recommended treating flu at that time.  So, this became the norm…until the Cochrane collaboration (think of them as the Olympic committee of human research without all the corruption of the Olympic committee) which looks at all the data available from research trials on a drug.

 

You’ll be shocked to learn that the company withheld almost half of the research trials that showed the treatment actually was not as successful as some of the smaller trials showed. The company trial data that they withheld, help the company make billions of dollars as countries certain of widespread outbreaks.  Shocking.  Anyhow, when they finally got their hands on this data the treatment effect of Tamiflu has only a slight benefit.  Most people get sick with flu for about a week.  If you start this medicine within 2 days of when your symptoms begin, you’re only going to get better a half day sooner.  

 

At 100$ for the treatment and side effects like upset stomach, to me it doesn’t make sense (with some caveats below).  This treatment DOES NOT decrease your chance of dying or getting admitted to the hospital!  So here is the down low…MOST people who are healthy, don’t require this treatment. There are some people who do require treatment. The CDC (center for disease control) recommends treatment if you’re really sick and need to stay in the hospital, kids less than age 2, adults over 65, people with certain chronic diseases (asthma, chronic kidney disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure and certain neuro conditions like muscular dystrophy), patients on immunosuppressant therapy or with HIV, pregnant females, or nursing home residents.  For the rest of us, Tylenol (acetaminophen), Motrin (ibuprofen or advil) and fluids is going to be the best treatment.  That's all for this week... Dr. Paul