A rise in the number of swine flu cases has alarmed the administration in Maharashtra. The state Health Minister Dr Deepak Sawant has asked doctors to prescribe Tamiflu tablets to patients if a fever is over 100 degree for more than a day without waiting for the lab to confirm the test.
Doctors have also been asked to put a patient on the Tamiflu dose, if he/she is suffering from throat infection and cold. The government has taken steps to make Tamiflu easily available. Now, all the chemist shops have got permission to dispense Tamiflu. Considering its easy availability, experts of infectious disease have advised a word of caution. According to experts the overuse of Tamiflu can make the virus drug-resistant.
“Doctors will be prescribing Tamiflu in large numbers. It will surely make the virus drug-resistant. The authenticity of the prescription should be checked before dispensing the tablet. There is a possibility of its misuse. The stock of Tamiflu should be restricted to few chemists in order to avoid the dangers in the future,” said Dr Vasant Nagvekar, Infectious disease expert, Global Hospitals.
Experts have observed a new strain called the Michigan strain in terms of swine flu and has predicted that the rising number of swine flu patients could be because of the new strain. Chemists’ organisations are also concerned about the possible effects of the overexposure of the drug.
While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Tanu Singhal, specialised in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, also expressed concern over the virus becoming resistant. “Easy availability of a drug works both ways. It becomes easily available to patients but because of the over exposure, the virus can become resistant to it. Sometimes, the family members of a patient who do not have swine flu also consume the tablet as a precautionary measure. We do not recommend it as a preventive measure. There should be responsible dispense of Tamiflu in order to avoid future risks.”
“We have been notified that now schedule H1 license holder chemists also can sell Tamiflu. Earlier only schedule X license holder could dispense it. The reason behind this provision was to avoid overexposure to the drug. Now that it will be used widely, the virus may become drug resistant,” said Prasad Danve, President Retail and Dispensing Chemist Association Mumbai.
According to the information released by Public Health Department of BMC, the number of swine flu cases has increased in June which had shown slow progression till the month of May. In June, 313 cases of swine flu were reported. In the months from January to June, 490 cases of swine flu were reported. From January to June 15, this year, nine people have succumbed to swine flu in Mumbai. “We have had swine flu’s outbreak earlier. The virus hasn’t become resistant to the medicine in last eight years. Now it seems less likely that it will show resistant but it is better to take precautions while dispensing Tamiflu,” said Dr Om Shrivastava, Consultant Infectious Diseases and Immunology.