Priority Health's Dr. Randy Shuck recently wrote this article on flu prevention, Tamiflu and the current flu season:

"I have discussed the flu over the last few weeks during Priority Health. I have advised that everyone should get he flu shot. Unfortunately, only about 30% have gotten the flu shot so far. I have also discussed ways to fight flu symptoms with medications, supplements, and common barrier techniques such as hand washing, and sneezing or coughing into your sleeve.

Unfortunately, many people have not followed this advice. So, now we are fully into the flu season, and many people are looking for ways to protect themselves from getting the flu, while others are looking for treatment options.

There are opinion pieces circulating on Tamiflu and its effectiveness. I have not personally reviewed the original studies that allowed the FDA to approve the medication. As a physician, I have to trust the opinion of the specialist whose job it is to review the studies and confirm the results.

As with any medication, there are side effects, benefits, and risks.  It is the job of the physician to appropriately evaluate the patient, match symptoms to disease states, and prescribe appropriate treatments. Unfortunately, sometimes public opinion pushes the physician into prescribing medications when they are not absolutely necessary. This might be true with the anti-influenza medications.

With all the media stories about how severe the flu is this year,  the public is much more aware. Often this awareness may lead to inappropriate prescribing. I have heard many patients tell me that they know what is wrong with them, and they are often right, but they are also often wrong. It is extremely difficult to diagnose a patient over the telephone, but sometimes there is not enough time in the day to see all the patients. Especially when there is a timeline for the effectiveness of a medication.

Tamiflu should really only be prescribed within the first 48 hrs of symptoms. This pressure by the patients' awareness of the effectiveness of the medication, and the difficulty in getting a doctors appointment, might be the root of the current concern. There are shortages in certain areas of Tamiflu. As of today, I am unaware of any shortages of the flu vaccine. Unfortunately this confirms one of my fears, patients are putting off prevention, and hoping that the medication will be effective. I would strongly recommend the opposite; get the vaccine, and forget the medications. Avoidance and prevention is always more successful.

Tamiflu is relatively new, and is used only during the flu season. The prolonged side effects and potential problems with the medication are not truly known. Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience with antibiotics and resistance. Let's hope we do better with the anti-viral medications. If we are truly using them appropriately, we will minimize the use, and save the medications for serious outbreaks. Only time will tell, but so far, it appears we are on the same path as we were with antibiotics: the path towards resistance."

Stay Healthy My Friends!