Flu Rx May Be Safer Than Once Thought

Tamiflu did not appear to increase suicide risk in adolescents

(RxWiki News) Despite past concerns, a popular flu medication did not appear to increase the risk of suicide in children and teens, a new study found.

Tamiflu (oseltamivir), a popular antiviral medication used to treat influenza, was once linked to a possible risk of self-harm in younger patients, according to the authors of this study. This led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to demand a warning on Tamiflu's label.

However, this new study found that adolescents who took Tamiflu were at no more risk of suicide than other children and teens who had the flu but were not prescribed the drug. Looking at more than 21,000 children and teens who attempted suicide during five recent flu seasons, the study authors identified no increased risk of suicide among the 251 children and teens who had been exposed to Tamiflu.

The original FDA warning about Tamiflu noted possible "neuropsychiatric side effects," which could include more than self-harm. Although this new study may relieve some fears about suicide risk in children and teens, it does not debunk all potential risks tied to Tamiflu. That's why it remains important to ask your health care provider about the potential side effects of any medication you're prescribed.

“I think physicians will welcome a large, rigorous study on this topic and factor this information into their decision-making process,” said study author Dr. James Antoon, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, in a press release. “While this study addresses suicide, there are still many other questions about other possible neuropsychiatric side effects of the drug, which we plan to study in the future. There are also other reasons to use caution when prescribing the drug, including resistance and efficacy in children.”

This study was published in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The University of Illinois at Chicago and grants supported this research. The study authors disclosed no potential conflicts of interest.