Tamiflu box and capsules

Watch out, there’s a second wave of nasty influenza starting to circulate. Even though it seems as if spring is right around the corner, a lot of people are suffering from this badass H3N2 strain of flu. Read more about this “second wave” at this link. Although public health officials are still encouraging people to get their flu shot, it may be a little late in the season. What about oral anti-viral drugs like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or baloxavir (Xofluza)? Will they work? Why are such drugs so controversial that this doctor would not prescribe Tamiflu?

Doctor Discourages Oseltamivir (Tamiful)

One reader could not get the ER doctor to prescribe this antiviral flu medicine:

Q. I was recently in a local emergency department with the flu. The doctor actually diagnosed me with the flu, but he discouraged me from taking oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

I asked about it, as I am a retired nurse. Apparently, this medicine has now been identified as a needless drug in an article published in Emergency Medicine News, April 2017. Do you have any further insight?

A. Use of Oseltamivir is controversial. The author of the article you cited calls it a “dud of a drug.” 

But a review of this class of medicines (neuraminidase inhibitors) involving data from 78 studies and nearly 30,000 patients concluded otherwise (Lancet Respiratory Medicine, May 2014).  Here is what they found:

“Compared with no treatment, neuraminidase inhibitor treatment (irrespective of timing) was associated with a reduction in mortality risk (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0·81). Compared with later treatment, early treatment (within 2 days of symptom onset) was associated with a reduction in mortality risk (adjusted OR 0·48). Early treatment versus no treatment was also associated with a reduction in mortality (adjusted OR 0·50…There was an increase in the mortality hazard rate with each day’s delay in initiation of treatment up to day 5 as compared with treatment initiated within 2 days of symptom onset (adjusted HR 1·23 for the increasing HR with each day’s delay).”


“We advocate early instigation of neuraminidase inhibitor treatment in adults admitted to hospital with suspected or proven influenza infection.”

Read More About the Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) Controversy:

At this link you find a retired family physician doctor spanking us for discussing antiviral drugs. You will also read a patient’s perspective.

Does Tamiflu Speed Recovery from Influenza? What about Side Effects?

Does Tamiflu Speed Recovery from Influenza? What about Side Effects?

What has been your experience with antiviral medications. Share your story in the comment section below.

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  1. Lori

    My husband and I got the swine flu in 2009. We took tamiflu and let our fever’s do their job and our symptoms were nearly gone in 3 days. Several of our friends contracted the flu around the same time and were sick for a week. I’ll always take Tamiflu if given the option!

  2. Margot B.

    It must have been the H3N2 strain I got in late February because I’d never felt so sick in my life. I did have the flu vaccine, and if there was any mitigation of symptoms, I’d hate to think what it would have been otherwise. I was given an antiviral and took only one pill because I already was getting huge headaches, and headache was listed as a side effect.

  3. Judith

    We know that flu viruses mutate very often. That’s why many flu immunizations are not effective.
    What is the data about flu virus mutating and becoming resistant to Tamiflu?

  4. Pat

    I am 77+ years old and have had an autoimmune disorder for 60+ years. I also have had chronic herpes and in recent years also developed chronic genital herpes. In addition to my methotrexate, I also take 400 mg Acyclovir to keep the herpes at bay. I do not take flu or shingles shorts because my immune system is so hyper nothing could survive in my body.

    The last time I had the flu was in the 80’s. I doubt I would get the flu anyway, but think my antiviral meds likely also offer some protection.

  5. Lyn
    Seattle, WA

    My husband had a debilitating flu a few years ago, took TamiFlu, and was on the road to recovery in a few hours. This is yet another case of one medication that doesn’t fit everyone; some react adversely to it; others are helped within hours if taken as directed. I have a challenged immune system, am older, and so I would not take TamiFlu, but would seek medical help if necessary. My husband is fit and well, and so I wouldn’t hesitate to give him TamiFlu if the occasion rises again in the future.

  6. Elizabeth

    Tamiflu definitely helped me when diagnosed with the flu!!
    Before that I had a flu not covered by the flu shot and was extremely sick
    I was given a prescription for Tamiflu which was hard to fill due to the many cases of flu at that time in Southern California. As soon as I took the first dose I was much better within hours and recovered from the flu much faster.

    I want this medicine any time I get diagnosed with the flu. It dramatically affected me for the better!!!!

  7. D. B.
    NW USA

    I do not understand this. It is a ‘Medical-Speak’ that is a bit over my head. Please help me (us) understand what this use of “odds ratio” and “hazard rates” means. That is “(adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0·81)”, and, “(adjusted OR 0·48)”, ….and this: “(adjusted OR 0·50…There was an increase in the mortality hazard rate with each day’s delay in initiation of treatment up to day 5 as compared with treatment initiated within 2 days of symptom onset (adjusted HR 1·23 for the increasing HR with each day’s delay).”

    Sorry to say, maybe I am just ‘out of touch’ because of my advanced age, but I cannot relate these things, like these ratios “OR 0-50” and “HR 1-23” meaningfully to my real world. Please help.

  8. Sarah
    North Carolina

    Last year I failed to get the flu shot, and in February fell ill with a doctor-confirmed case of the flu. He gave me Tamiflu, and I believed that it worked great for me. I would take it again in a heartbeat. Now that there are generic versions out there and a new, expensive anti-viral has been released, I fear that Tamiflu will fall out of favor with doctors.

  9. Andrea
    Houston, TX

    Our 18-year-old daughter came down with the flu a week ago. She started taking Tamiflu about 12 hours after her first symptoms appeared and had complications from the Tamiflu that made her feel terrible – nausea, vomiting, headaches, puffy eyes. It would peak 30 minutes – 4 hours after she took the medicine. She discontinued after several doses, as the side effects were worse thnt the flu. She will not be taking this drug again.

  10. Marty
    Houston, TX

    Most doctors don’t seem to know that taking Tamiflu as soon as you are exposed is the most effective way to use it. Granted, you usually don’t know you’ve been exposed until you have symptoms, but if you know you have been exposed to a confirmed case of influenza, Tamiflu can prevent your getting any symptoms at all.

    My toddler granddaughter had a confirmed case of influenza. On the advice of the pediatrician, the toddler’s mother, her baby brother, and I all took Tamiflu immediately. We did not wait for symptoms. Her father did not take Tamiflu, thinking that the toddler’s case was a light one, and Tamiflu was unnecessary. The three of us who took Tamiflu never had any symptoms at all. But the father came down with full blown influenza; was flat on his back in bed, completely non-functional for 4 days; and took a month to fully recover. If you know you have been exposed to a confirmed case of influenza, ask your doctor for a prescription, and take it before you have symptoms.

  11. Paula
    Charlotte. NC

    My husband (age 65 at the time) had flu symptoms and was prescribed Tamiflu over the phone by his doctor. After one dose, he began to have dizziness and an extremely alarming anxiety attack. The doctor told us not to take him to the ER because they would just park him somewhere and let him ride it out – so I kept him at home. It took my husband half the night to recover from the anxiety attack. I got the flu soon after that and decided to just let it run its course!

  12. Anonymous

    I got this late-season flu about a month ago, and it hit me HARD. I saw the doctor the first day of severe symptoms and started Tamiflu immediately. The worst of the symptoms (exceeding fatigue, extreme weakness, lethargy, etc.) began to recede within a couple of days.

    Sadly, and probably associated with it, I was diagnosed with bronchitis soon after. I could hear my lungs gurgling (unnerving!). THAT unpleasantness lingered longer than the flu itself.

    Happily, all were resolved in a couple/few weeks, and I’m back on the road and firing on all cylinders.

  13. Kevin
    Chapel Hill

    I have taken Tamiflu prophyactically at least once each year for the past three. Once my wife actually had the flu. We live in a very small house, and I did not get the flu. My grandchildren, who live close by, very close by, and for whom we do day care all have had the flu and I, in close contact, have not gotten the flu. Finally, I work as a teacher in my county and travel from school to school where, despite the flu ravaging both the student and teacher populations, many victims also have had the shot, but I have not contracted the flu.

    I blame what passes for my good health and definite good luck in all this on Tamiflu.

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