Last updated Feb. 8, 2018.
Flu season can hit us pretty hard. Unfortunately, it isn’t all about runny noses and just not feeling well — the flu can be deadly. Particularly this year, flu season has been challenging for healthcare providers, with dozens of pediatric deaths reported across the country due to the H3N2 flu strain. The hospitalization rate for 2017-18 season was 51.4 per 100,000 midway through flu season.
If you haven’t had a flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly urge most people to get vaccinated every year. A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows that most pediatric flu deaths occur in unvaccinated children.
But what if we do happen to get the flu? Most of us will reach for over-the-counter or prescription relief, including medicine like Tamiflu. However, many patients have filed adverse event reports with the FDA alleging dangerous side effects associated with the use of Tamiflu.
Here’s what you need to know about Tamiflu, its uses, risks, and filing a lawsuit if you or a loved one have been injured.
What does Tamiflu do?
Tamiflu is an antiviral that alleviates flu symptoms as well as the duration of the flu in uncomplicated cases of influenza A and B in children age 1 and older. It helps block the flu virus if taken within 48 hours of first experiencing flu symptoms and can shorten the amount of time you’re sick by about a day.
Flu symptoms include:
- Feeling feverish or having a fever
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Body aches and/or headache
Doctors may prescribe an antiviral drug like Tamiflu if you already have the flu. However, people who are at high risk of serious flu complications, including the elderly and children under 5 years old, should consult with their healthcare provider immediately if they develop any flu symptoms.
According to the CDC, antiviral drugs may also reduce the risk of flu complications in children, including ear infections, while reducing cases of pneumonia or flu hospitalizations in adults. Early antiviral treatment in adults also may reduce their risk of death.
It’s important to note, however, that antiviral drugs are not a substitute for the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are the best way to prevent seasonal flu, while antiviral drugs remain the best way to treat seasonal flu and variant flu viruses.
Tamiflu Side Effects
While Tamiflu may shorten the duration of the flu by one day, many patients have reported significant adverse side effects to the FDA. The most common, like any other antiviral, are nausea and vomiting. It may therefore feel like Tamiflu is actually making you sicker.
In addition to these common side effects, there have been a growing number of concerning adverse event reports regarding patients who experienced much more severe reactions, including confusion and delirium, hallucinations, erratic and violent behavior, suicidal tendencies, and encephalitis.
Due to the prevalence of these significant side effects, Tamiflu has been banned in other countries, including Japan. Now that the U.S. is experiencing a record flu season, reports of significant side effects are increasing. A summary of some of these reports is below:
- A 6-year-old girl in North Carolina died from the flu a few hours after paramedics visited her home. Earlier in the week, she had been given Tamiflu and told to stay hydrated, but later experienced labored breathing.
- An 8-year-old girl in New York died after being prescribed Tamiflu, though no other details were provided on the cause of her death.
- A 16-year-old boy in Indiana committed suicide after an abrupt change in his personality after taking Tamiflu.
- Other psychological effects after Tamiflu include the case of one 6 year old who tried to jump out of a window, an 11 year old who told her father she could hear “the devil’s voice,” and a 2-year-old boy who began twitching and picking at imaginary pain spots on his arms while on Tamiflu.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had a meeting over 10 years ago to discuss these adverse events related to Tamiflu, finding that “neuropsychiatric effects can occur with influenza, in the absence of Tamiflu or other treatment.” Inflammation of the brain also can occur due to the flu in children.
According to a systematic review of clinical study reports related to Tamiflu and its effects on children and adults, while the drug can be effective in reducing symptoms of the flu, it “causes nausea and vomiting and increases the risk of headaches and renal and psychiatric syndromes.” Although more studies with better confidence intervals need to be done, the reviewers noted that Tamiflu’s inclusion on medical agency lists as an essential antiviral drug should be questioned due to its risks. Another study, meanwhile, called Tamiflu a drug with “modest efficacy” that hasn’t had enough checks and balances by the government.
Tamiflu Warning Label
It should go without saying that before taking any drug, you should check its warning label. We’ve provided information from Tamiflu’s warning label, which you should discuss with your doctor if you or your child has been prescribed Tamiflu:
- You may experience neuropsychiatric events on Tamiflu. According to the warning label, “patients with influenza, including those receiving TAMIFLU, particularly pediatric patients, may be at an increased risk of confusion or abnormal behavior early in their illness.”
- You may experience serious skin/hypersensitivity reactions on Tamiflu. You should discontinue using the drug if you experience any allergic reactions.
To report any side effects of Tamiflu, contact the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or www.fda.gov/medwatch.
Can I take any other antivirals during flu season?
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) still recommend Tamiflu (known by its generic name as oseltamivir) for early treatment of the flu at any age and prevention of the flu in children who are at least 1 year old.
Two other antivirals are used in children who are older as well as adults. Zanamivir (Relenza) is used for early flu treatment in people who are age 7 or older and prevention in those ages 5 and older. Peramivir is used for early flu treatment in children ages 2 and up. Both have their own side effects, as well.
If you’re pregnant or recently had a child, you’re in the high-risk group for complications from the flu. Tamiflu is the antiviral most recommended during pregnancy by the CDC because “it has the most studies available to suggest that it is safe and beneficial during pregnancy.”
According to Tamiflu’s warning label, however, there is no data on use of the drug in pregnant women so it should only be used if “clearly needed.”
I’ve been injured by Tamiflu. What do I do?
If you or a loved one have experienced adverse side effects while taking Tamiflu that resulting in serious injury or death, you may have a legal claim. Our dangerous drug attorneys have decades of experience handling cases like Tamiflu, and we will fight for your right to compensation.
Contact us today for a free consultation. You won’t pay a cent unless we win your case.