Is Tamiflu Useful to COVID-19 Patients?
Researchers are currently looking at old drugs to treat people with the COVID-19 virus. The flu medication Tamiflu is one of such, but there is a question over whether it truly helps.
The current coronavirus outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China last December, has now spread to many other countries. There are reports of infections in all the continents, except Antarctica.
There is currently no cure for the virus and there are no vaccines either. Experts say that it will take years to be able to come up with any of those.
Treatment of people with the disease COVID-19 mainly involves doing things that help to control their symptoms. Patients typically get the type of care similar to those for seasonal influenza and other respiratory disorders.
The drug oseltamivir, more popularly known as Tamiflu, is one of the existing drugs that health professionals have used on COVID-19 patients. It appears to inhibit the ability of the virus to multiply in a patient’s body.
The seeming usefulness of Tamiflu for COVID-19 patients is rather strange. This is because the drug was made to target an enzyme in the flu virus and not in a coronavirus.
SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the same family of viruses as those responsible for the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). But it’s way more contagious than the other coronaviruses.
The total SARS and MERS cases of years ago were about 10,600, combined. As for the COVID-19 virus, the number of infections worldwide has gone past 125,000.
COVID-19 treatment with Tamiflu
Tamiflu is a drug that helps to protect people from influenza after being exposed to the virus. Patients who begin to use it within 48 hours of noticing the first flu symptoms usually have fewer issues with the symptoms.
Medical experts say the drug could make flu patients recover 12-24 hours earlier, compared to if they didn’t use any drug at all.
Scientists in China have been trialing Tamiflu on people who have the COVID-19 virus since it currently has no cure. Surprisingly, some patients seem to improve after taking the medication.
It appeared to reduce the rate at which the novel coronavirus replicate in some patients.
In a recent Chinese study involving four infected medical professionals who recovered, researchers made use of the drug.
This, medical experts say, is surprising because Tamiflu was designed to work specifically on the flu virus.
Focus on drug repurposing
Most scientists currently seem to think that a cure to SARS-CoV-2 is still years, maybe even decades, away. Attention, for now, is on finding new uses for existing drugs in order to contain the pandemic.
Doctors in Thailand reported early in February that a 70-year-old woman, who was seriously ill with the virus, recovered after being treated with a combination HIV therapy and oseltamivir (Tamiflu). The woman returned a negative result within 48 hours of being treated with high doses of the drugs.
The HIV medications were probably responsible for the woman’s recovery rather than oseltamivir, according to Science News. This is because another group of more than 120 patients in China treated with the latter failed to show any notable improvement.
Along with hepatitis medications, HIV drugs are receiving ample attention from researchers for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. These block proteases that viruses need to release proteins from long chains thereby reducing their numbers.
Old drugs that are being considered as likely aids for COVID-19 treatment include remdesivir, which has been tested on both MERS and Ebola viruses.
How to get Tamiflu
People who may be interested in using oseltamivir can only get it on prescription.
Unlike in some past years, there doesn’t appear to be a Tamiflu shortage at any location in the United States currently. The only restriction is just the need for a prescription before being able to buy it.
The drug is not for everyone. It is more for groups of people that are at most risk for flu complications. These include the elderly, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, and children.
A flu diagnosis is the first step to getting Tamiflu. Essentially, this means people who want it for coronavirus treatment might not readily get it.
When it comes to COVID-19, oseltamivir seems to be allowed mostly for trial purposes or emergencies at this time.
It is likely, however, that Tamiflu will be available over the counter in no distant future. The pharmaceutical company Sanofi got approval last July to sell the drug to consumers in America without a prescription.
COVID-19: What we know so far about the 2019 novel coronavirus – UChicago Medicine (https://www.uchicagomedicine.org/forefront/prevention-and-screening-articles/wuhan-coronavirus)
Repurposed drugs may help scientists fight the new coronavirus | Science News (https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid19-repurposed-treatments-drugs)
Is there a cure for the new coronavirus? | Live Science (https://www.livescience.com/can-coronavirus-be-cured.html)