In the United Kingdom, there is no need to get a diagnosis from your doctor – you can get your possible H1N1 symptoms diagnosed online or via hotline, and then pick up your drugs at the nearest pharmacy.
“The National Health Services is offering (antivirals) free of charge to anyone with suspected swine flu,” said Dr. Michael Thompson of Oxford University in London. “So there’s a fairly liberal policy of using these drugs. Other countries like the United States, Canada and Australia – they are using a much more targeted approach.”
Thompson is concerned that not everyone with H1N1 ought to be taking Tamiflu and other antiviral medications.
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Thompson is co-author of a study that states Tamiflu’s side effects, such as vomiting, outweigh its benefits, especially when it comes to children under the age of 12.
“While there is doubt about how H1N1 affects children, we believe a safety-first approach of offering antivirals to everyone remains a sensible and responsible way forward,” according to a statement from the National Health Services. “However, we will keep this policy under review as we learn more about the virus and its effects.”
Other doctors defend the use of Tamiflu.
Dr. Steve Field, of the Royal College of Physicians, said Tamiflu, should be given to patients with the H1N1 virus to reduce the severity of symptoms, and as a consequence to reduce the number of people being referred to the hospital.
Field said giving sick patients Tamiflu will also reduce the transmission of the virus.
According to the Oxford University study, it would take 13 kids being treated with antivirals for one new case to be prevented.