After treating 41 victims of H5N1, the deadly form of the bird flu virus, a Vietnamese doctor has concluded Tamiflu, the drug most widely stockpiled around the world to combat a feared pandemic, is “useless.”

Dr. Nguyen Tuong Van, who runs the intensive care unit of the Center for Tropical Diseases in Hanoi, followed World Health Organization guidelines in her treatment of patients but concluded it had no effect on the disease.

“We place no importance on using this drug on our patients,” she said. “Tamiflu is really only meant for treating ordinary type A flu. It was not designed to combat H5N1 … [Tamiflu] is useless.”

Van said bird flu is far worse that SARS, an avian-linked respiratory illness, which she has also treated. Caring for H5N1 victims requires intensive patient “support” with modern technology, like ventilators and dialysis machines, if patients are to be kept alive. Even Western countries with wide access to technology would see there medical infrastructure strained to the limit if the dreaded pandemic comes.

Van did not criticize governments for stockpiling the drug but said doctors had to inform the public about its performance.

Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical, has sold stockpiles of its Tamiflu to 40 countries and insists it’s effective if administered within 48 hours of infection. Roche recently licensed Indonesia to manufacture Tamiflu for its own population.

The WHO confirms Van’s experience, admitting Tamiflu has not been “widely successful in human patients,” but speculates the drug has not been administered until late in the disease in many Asian countries.

Source: World Net Daily, 4th December 2005.

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