Colds and flu

Updated 04 July 2014

Tamiflu may cut flu death risk by 25 percent

Tamiflu is the most widely used of two frontline drugs used to fight flu. It considerably reduced the risk of death from flu during the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic.


The anti-virus drug Tamiflu reduced the risk of death from flu by a quarter among adults who took it during the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza pandemic, a study said.

Read: Resistance develops fast with H1N1

The findings, published in The Lancet, should be a useful guide to doctors weighing options for treating flu, the authors said.

The research collated data from 78 studies, covering more than 29 000 patients in 38 different countries, admitted to hospital during the H1N1 flu scare.

A novel flu strain, H1N1 initially stoked fears of a massive death toll in line with flu pandemics of the previous century.

But the strain turned out to be far less lethal, with a mortality rate similar to that of annual, or "seasonal", strains of flu.

Inhibiting viral replication

Tamiflu – lab name oseltamivir – is the most widely used of two frontline drugs used to fight flu by inhibiting viral replication.

Read: Swine flu is coming – time to get your shot!

The study found that people older than 16 who were given Tamiflu in hospital had a 25% lower risk of death than those who did not get the drug.

Among a sub-group of those who received Tamiflu swiftly, within the first two days of admission, the mortality risk was halved, and among pregnant women it was reduced by 54%.

There was no significant impact on risk among children given the drug.

The study, carried out by independent epidemiologists, was financed by Tamiflu's makers, Hoffmann-La Roche.

The Lancet is a peer-reviewed journal, meaning that papers are vetted by external experts before publication.

Read more:

Review questions Tamiflu's effectiveness

Drug-resistant flu in 2 US teens

Tamiflu resistance warning


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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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