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Influenza treatment now available from pharmacies

Influenza treatment now available from your pharmacist

14 May 2007

This winter, for the first time in New Zealand, Tamiflu® (oseltamivir), an influenza (flu) treatment, will be available directly from pharmacists during the influenza season.

Tamiflu is an antiviral treatment that directly attacks the influenza virus, reducing the duration and severity of symptoms and the resulting time away from work and other commitments 1,2,3. Tamiflu is most effective if taken within two days of the onset of influenza symptoms4.

Virologist Lance Jennings says Tamiflu is the only current treatment that attacks the influenza virus itself.

“Influenza symptoms develop quickly, keeping people away from normal activities for a number of days, with recovery often taking several weeks”, Dr Jennings says.

Pharmacists will now be able to prescribe and sell Tamiflu to patients 12 years and older, for the treatment of influenza during the months of May to September, when seasonal influenza is at its worst 4.

Dr Jennings says there are many over-the-counter medicines that reduce the symptoms of influenza, like fever or cough, but don’t attack the virus, which continues to run its course. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections and have no power against viral infections.

“Many people confuse the influenza virus with a bad cold which is why they need professional advice. Tamiflu isn’t effective against the common cold, or throat or chest infections caused by other viruses. It’s crucial that the pharmacist actually sees someone rather than diagnose through a third party or over the phone.”

Pharmacists will only be able to sell Tamiflu to individuals who present with influenza symptoms. After a face-to-face consultation the pharmacist will determine whether Tamiflu is the appropriate treatment.

Previously people suffering from influenza had to go to their general practitioner for a prescription. This change means people suffering from influenza can get quicker access to Tamiflu, as they will not need to see their doctor first.

Outside of May to September, for the prevention of influenza, and for children under the age of 12, Tamiflu will remain a prescription-only medicine.

ENDS

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