Tamiflu Approved to Treat Influenza

By Nancy Steinbach

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug to treat the disease influenza.

Influenza is a disease of the breathing system. It is commonly known as the flu. It is caused by a virus that is passed from one person to another. The flu causes high body temperature, muscle pain, difficulty breathing, coughing and weakness. It is most common during the winter months.

The flu is not usually a serious disease. It generally disappears in about a week. But the flu can have serious effects. And it can lead to other disease that can kill. The flu is especially dangerous for very young or very old people. And it can be dangerous for people with a weakened defense system against disease.

Last year, the United States government approved the medicine oseltamivir (o-sell-TA-mih-veer) as a treatment for the flu. Studies showed that the medicine helps people recover from the disease about one day earlier than those who get no treatment. It blocks the action of a protein on the virus that permits it to spread from cell to cell. So the drug stops the virus from growing.

Oseltamivir is sold in the United States under the name Tamiflu. It has now been approved to prevent influenza as well as treat it.

The Food and Drug Administration says one Tamiflu pill taken every day can help prevent people from getting the disease. Scientists did several studies on the new drug. One study of the drug involved a group of old people who lived together in a nursing home. Less than one percent of those who took the Tamiflu got influenza. More than four percent of those who took an inactive substance suffered from the disease.

Another study involved families in which someone was already suffering the flu. One percent of the people who took Tamiflu also got the flu. Twelve percent of those who took the inactive substance suffered the disease. Medical experts say people who live together should take one Tamiflu pill a day for seven days if someone in the house has the flu.

Doctors still say the best way to prevent the flu is by getting the influenza vaccine. But they say Tamiflu is the best chance to stop the disease if it is not possible to get the vaccine.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach.

Voice of America Special English