Tamiflu for Bird Flu?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Media reports about the supply of the drug Tamiflu abound as fears of a global bird flu pandemic mount. Tamiflu is the brand name for a drug known as oseltamivir, one of a class of antiviral drugs that can help reduce the severity of flu symptoms. Of the four antiviral medications that are available to treat an infection with the flu virus (oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), amantadine (Symmetrel), and rimantadine (Flumadine)), Tamiflu has been most often prescribed by doctors.

Tamiflu is not the same thing as ainfluenza vaccination ("flu shot"), nor can it replace the flu shot. Rather, by blocking the action of an enzyme called neuraminidase that helps cells infected with the influenza virus spread the infection to healthy cells, Tamiflu reduces the severity of symptoms and the duration of an influenza virus infection.

Tamiflu has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating influenza infection and for reducing the chances of contracting the flu in both adults and children over age one who may be at risk for getting the flu due to exposure to an infected person or in the presence of a community outbreak of the flu.