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Influenza drug delayed

The maker of the only medication approved to treat both major strains of influenza in young children said the drug was not available for the start of this flu season because production problems delayed its distribution. The medication, Tamiflu Oral Suspension product, was supposed to be launched this season. Hoffmann-La Roche informed the FDA of its production problems, but FDA spokeswoman Sharon Jayne said the company was not required to do so. //

Tamiflu is one of two FDA approved drugs in a new class of medications, which attack the virus that causes the flu and stops it from spreading. The other medication, Relenza, is equally effective but can cause more side effects and is more difficult to use since it is inhaled twice a day. Both medications must be used within two days of developing symptoms to be effective.

Tamiflu pills for adults and older children were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October 1999 and are available. The liquid formula for children 1 or older was approved in December 2000, but was not available until January 2001. Flu season usually occurs between December and April.

Tamiflu can shorten the duration of the flu by one to two days and reduce major complications such as ear infections and bronchitis. Ear infections, the most common complication in children, can be reduced by 44 percent. Tamiflu can reduce the spread of flu in families. When the first person in a household who developed the flu took the drug as well as all other family members, 63 percent of the households were protected against the flu. The results with this drug are marvelous. Two other flu medications, amantadine and rimantadine, are available but only treat Influenza A.

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