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AVIAN FLU: More bad news for our greatest hope

Anyone here remember avian flu? You know, nasty disease, kills everyone. Even the UK's very own chief medical officer of health Sir Liam Donaldson told an expectant public earlier this year that 750,000 Brits would die from it any time now.

In fact, it's killed 153 people worldwide in three years.

So, yes, it has gone a bit quiet of late, but then the governments of the world have already stockpiled every last available shipment of Tamiflu (oseltamivir), the antiviral that's useless against avian flu, so there's no point in keeping on about it, we suppose.

The UK government has bought 14.6 million doses of the useless drug, while the US government has gone for 20 million doses of the stuff.

Even sensible Canada went avian flu crazy, and bought in truckloads of Tamiflu, despite the sober observations of its health minister that it was pointless buying an antidote to a disease that couldn't yet be passed among humans.

Tamiflu's manufacturer, Roche, admits in the small print its drug won't do a thing against avian flu - one of several admissions it has made this week.

The US drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has also asked Roche to reveal that Tamiflu can cause the patient to become so delirious that he starts harming himself. Self-injury, confusion and delirium are not uncommon, Roche has admitted, especially if it's taken by a child. It can also cause anaphylactic shock, serious skin reactions, nausea, vomiting, bronchitis, insomnia and vertigo.

These latest admissions throw into even starker contrast the strange statement made by the World Health Organization earlier this year that Tamiflu is our best defence against avian flu.

The truth is that we don't have a pharmaceutical defence against the H5N1 virus because it doesn't yet exist as a disease that's transmitted between humans. And as a virus mutates one million times more frequently than DNA the best we can ever hope for is a vaccine that fights last year's virus.


  • FDA website