Japan bans Tamiflu for teenagers

Japan officials said the anti-flu drug Tamiflu should not be given to teenagers, after two boys aged 12 and 16 broke their legs jumping from the second base floor of their houses .
The banish follows earlier cases of leftover behaviour – including some suicides – in japanese teens taking Tamiflu ( see http&colon//www.newscientist.com/channel/health/dn10527 ) .
however, a large new discipline casts doubt over whether the drug is to blame for psychiatric problems .
The company that makes Tamiflu, Roche Holdings in Basel, Switzerland, told New Scientist that fresh data shows that people with flu are less at risk of psychiatric symptoms if they take the drug. David Reddy, in charge of Tamiflu at Roche, says the company is about to publish data, collected by two large insurance companies in the US, on 226,000 people with influenza, of whom 101,500 took Tamiflu.


between 2 % and 5 % of patients in both drug and non-drug groups had neuro-psychiatric symptoms including encephalitis ( excitement of the lining of the brain ), delusion, craze, anxiety and hallucination. But, says Reddy, people on Tamiflu had importantly fewer symptoms .

Reduced effects

More than three-quarters of the Tamiflu taken globally therefore far has been taken in Japan. The number of people and clock time spent on the drug there now adds up to 380,000 “ patient-years ”, says Reddy. Japan ’ s national suicide rate is 25 per 100,000 people. therefore, by elongation, “ 95 people should have committed suicide while they were on Tamiflu just normally by nowadays, and we haven ’ t seen that, ” Reddy says. In fact, only two people are known to have committed suicide while on the drug .
Flu itself has neuro-psychiatric effects, when chemicals called cytokines produced as character of the unconditioned immune reaction to the virus causal agent genius inflammation. “ But Tamiflu lowers the come of virus, so it should reduce these effects, ” says Reddy.

John Treanor, an technical on influenza drugs at the University of Rochester, has seen Roche ’ sulfur data. “ There has not been a trace of neuro-psychiatric side effects [ caused by Tamiflu ] in the clinical trials [ in people ], and the database analysis they have done besides doesn ’ t indicate such an association, ” he told New Scientist. “ however, when you get reports like this it is significant to investigate thoroughly. ”
The japanese government says 54 people have died while taking the drug. fifteen people aged between 10 and 19 have jumped from buildings, and another run into traffic, while taking Tamiflu. Five of these have died since 2004, although it is unknown whether they intended to kill themselves. In accession, there have been seven report cases of odd behavior in adults taking the drug – two of whom commit suicide .

Political decision

Masato Tashiro, head of influenza at Japan ’ s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, told New Scientist that the drug ’ s withdrawal “ is a highly political and sensitive issue, rather than skill ”. however, he says, we know excessively fiddling about it. “ My personal concern is that Tamiflu might invade the genius through the blood-brain barrier. ”
The barrier forms a highly impenetrable layer of tissue that prevents many chemicals from crossing from the blood into the brain. In 2004, Roche said the drug should not be given to infants under one year of old age, after experiments in mouse showed it depressed brain bodily process and caused death in animals excessively young to have a fully-formed barrier.

normally, Tamiflu can not penetrate the barrier. But it becomes more permeable when the tissue is inflamed, as can happen in influenza. japanese doctors fear that Tamiflu might be getting into the mind, depressing natural process and “ disinhibiting ” some behaviours .
South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union ’ s medicines agency have renewed warnings to doctors to watch for curious demeanor in teenagers on the drug, but have not withdrawn it .
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