(HealthDay News) — A review of the data suggests that the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) shortens the length of flu symptoms by about a day, and reduces the risk of flu-related complications such as pneumonia. The review, published online Jan. 29 in The Lancet, was funded by the Multiparty Group for Advice on Science foundation, an independent panel of experts.
The findings come from an analysis of nine published and unpublished randomized clinical trials of oseltamivir in adults. The data were provided to the researchers by oseltamivir’s maker, Roche. The studies compared the effectiveness of the licensed 75-mg dose of oseltamivir against a placebo in more than 4,328 adults who had the flu between 1997 and 2001.
In patients with laboratory-confirmed flu, oseltamivir shortened the length of symptoms by 21 percent compared with the placebo, shortening the average flu bout from about five days to four. Compared to those who took the placebo, patients who took oseltamivir also had a 44 percent lower risk of lower respiratory infections requiring antibiotics and a 63 percent lower risk of hospitalization for any cause. Patients who took oseltamivir were also 3.7 percent more likely to experience nausea and 4.7 percent more likely to have vomiting than those who took a placebo.
Oseltamivir’s safety and effectiveness “has been hotly debated, with some researchers claiming there is little evidence that oseltamivir works,” coauthor Arnold Monto, M.D., professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, noted in a journal news release. But the new data review gives “compelling evidence” the drug does reduce flu duration while preventing complications, he said. However, “whether the magnitude of these benefits outweighs the harms of nausea and vomiting needs careful consideration,” he added.