Tamiflu side effects linked to children reports find
The antiviral drug, which is being handed out to hundreds of thousands of Britons, can also produce stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhoea, research suggests.
A study found that almost one in five youngsters experience neuropsychiatric side effects, such as poor concentration, confusion, and sleeping problems.
Thousands of schoolchildren were given the drug as a preventive measure during the early stages of the swine flu pandemic in Britain.
The findings are likely to lead to concern among parents that their children’s performance at school has been jeopardised by taking the drug.
Only people with suspected or confirmed swine flu are now being prescribed Tamiflu, and around 150,000 packs have been distributed by the newly launched National Pandemic Flu Service in the past week alone.
Two studies from experts at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) showed a “high proportion” of British schoolchildren reporting problems after taking Tamiflu.
Data was gathered from children at three schools in London and one in south west England who were given Tamiflu earlier this year after classmates became infected.
One study, of 248 children aged 11 and 12 at a school in south west England, which was closed after a pupil contracted the virus, found that more than half suffered side effects from taking Tamiflu.
The report said: “Fifty-one per cent experienced symptoms, such as feeling sick (31.2 per cent), headaches (24.3 per cent) and stomach ache (21.1 per cent).
“Although some children were ill with flu-like symptoms, those tested did not have A (H1N1) v (swine flu) infection.”
The researchers said “likely side effects were common” and the “burden of side effects needs to be considered” when deciding on giving Tamiflu to children prophylactically.
Another study of 103 schoolchildren found 45 suffered side-effects such as nausea, stomach pain, problems sleeping, vomiting and diarrhoea.
Almost one in five (18 per cent) reported a neuropsychiatric side effect, such as poor concentration, inability to think clearly, problems sleeping, feeling dazed or confused and nightmares.
The report concluded: “This may be of particular concern to exam year students (and their parents).”
The studies were carried out in the early stages of the pandemic, when everyone sharing a classroom with a child who developed swine flu was given the drug, even if they showed no symptoms.
The findings were disclosed as it emerged that Japanese authorities are advising doctors not to prescribe Tamiflu to youngsters aged 10 to 19 over fears of neuropsychiatric side effects.
A statement from Roche, which manufactures Tamiflu, said the contribution of Tamiflu to neuropsychiatric effects “has not been established”.