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Swine flu could become resistant to Tamiflu because of over prescribing

Swine flu could become resistant to Tamiflu, the only drug that can treat the virus, because it is being over prescribed, a leading doctor has warned.

Dr Holden, the British Medical Association’s lead authority on pandemic flu, said he thought the thresholds for issuing Tamiflu had been set too low, a policy which he fears will come back to haunt the Department of Health if the H1N1 virus becomes resistant to Tamiflu.

The GP, based in Matlock, Derbyshire, helped draft the clinical algorithm used by operators on the National Pandemic Flu Service telephone line, but said doctors are being encouraged to dish out a “pill for every ill”.

Writing in Pulse mageazine, he also accused Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, and Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, of giving different advice to GPs and the public.

“Both … have contradicted themselves by telling the public they can have Tamiflu if and when they want it, but at the same time telling GPs to use their clinical judgement.

“They are running with the hares and hunting with the hounds.

“People are finding it a bit hard to swallow that we are getting beaten up by the DH for antibiotics prescribing but that the same principle doesn’t seem to apply to the judicious use of Tamiflu.

“Personally I feel the flu line will help to relieve pressure on GPs but my concern is that the threshold for giving out Tamiflu will be set too low. For most people, given that is a mild illness the amount of medication being given out is overkill.”

As more courses of Tamiflu are distributed, GPs are seeing an increase in the number of patients who have experienced side-effects caused by the antiviral, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and headaches.

“Every day GPs are saying they are seeing people with side effects from Tamiflu,” said Dr Holden. People are going for second and third consultations with their GP. It’s putting even more strain on the NHS.”