Can Taking Tamiflu Unnecessarily Hurt You?

Tamiflu, generic (EN Hattie Kauffman piece) CBS

At pediatricians' offices, parents are worried.

"We wanted to make sure our young ones are safe," said Beverly Thiagarajan, a concerned parent.

Doctors like Nicole Nourmand in Los Angeles said patients are asking about one thing.

"A lot of families are calling and asking for a prescription to Tamiflu even if their children are not sick because they want to have it just in case," Nourmand said.

The antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, are the only known treatments for H1N1, reports CBS News correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

The CDC said only patients who were exposed to the flu need medication. Dr. Martin Blaser, of New York University, said taking Tamiflu unnecessarily creates a public health danger.

"It's not a good idea to have it at home just in case because the more people who have it, the more people who use it, the sooner resistance will emerge," Blaser said.

But some who can't get the drugs from a doctor are turning to the Internet. Online Pharmacy Direct Response Marketing said sales of Tamiflu have spiked 800 percent in the last week. AccessRx reports a 62 percent increase in sales.

To buy Tamiflu in a pharmacy you need a prescription - online you may not. Kauffman's producer ordered Tamiflu with just a few clicks of a mouse and a $160 charge on a credit card. Kauffman and her producer just typed in we had fever and flu, checked the informed consent agreement saying they consulted a doctor.

An online doctor supposedly reviewed the case and CBS News purchase. But nobody called or even e-mailed with questions, Kauffman reports. A few days later, they had the drug in hand.

The CDC said other Web sites, are falsely claiming their medicines prevent H1N1. And reselling Tamiflu on sites like Craigslist is illegal.

Doctors say patients should be careful what they buy online, because like all medicines, Tamiflu and Relenza have potential side effects.

"The one I've experienced with patients is delirium so it's kind of scary to see your kid hallucinate," Normaund said. "If you're doing that for no reason other than paranoia it's silly."

That's why most doctors are refusing to prescribe the drugs unless a patient is sick.
  • Hattie Kauffman

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