Researchers from the University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Alabama have found that Oseltamivir — an antiviral medicine marketed as “Tamiflu” — shortens the duration of influenza symptoms by about a day.

When treated with Tamiflu, researchers observed a 44 percent reduction in the development of respiratory infections or other infectious complications.

Epidemiology Prof. Arnold Monto, a researcher from the School of Public Health, said the study confirms the success of antiviral medication in treating the flu.

“We decided to conduct this study as antibacterials are often prescribed on grounds that antivirals are not as effective,” Monto said.

Antivirals typically inhibit the development of pathogens, whereas antibacterial treatments kill bacteria.

Monto added that despite the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use of Tamiflu for treating influenza, doctors tend to prescribe antibacterial medication.

Dr. Robert Winfield, chief health officer at the University Health Service, said e-mails are sent to UHS caregivers encouraging prescribing Tamiflu.

“Influenza peaked in the first week of January, and anybody coming in within 48 hours of getting sick will be treated with Tamiflu,” Winfield said. “Tamiflu is a useful drug, but after four hours it tends to be ineffective.”

This research has been underway for the past several years and trials were conducted on more than 4,300 patients globally. The study employed a placebo-controlled design, where patients with placebo medication experienced their flu symptoms alleviated within 123 hours — whereas those who took Tamiflu were remedied in 98 hours.

“Observational studies were conducted with a double-blind approach,” Monto said. “Neither the patients or the researchers were aware of the placement of placebo. It was done to reduce bias from the nature of observations.”

Researchers found the drug to be ineffective when administered to patients not carrying the influenza virus, even if they show similar symptoms. The study also showed that use of pain-relief medications with Tamiflu reduced its success.

Though the study demonstrated Tamiflu’s usefulness, Monto stressed the need for new antiviral medications that could shorten the duration of symptoms. He said it could be possible to combine different antivirals to achieve this goal.

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