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December 18,  2001

New Study Shows That Influenza Antiviral Can Reduce the Spread of Flu in Families

- Antiviral treatment for influenza can also provide an added benefit by preventing family members from contracting the highly contagious disease -

 (SafetyAlerts) - Roche announced today new data on its influenza medication Tamiflu(R) (oseltamivir phosphate) that shows the drug's benefits in reducing the further spread of influenza among household members. Data from the study, entitled Family Influenza Transmission (FIT), was released today at the 42nd annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Chicago, Illinois.

The primary finding of the FIT study shows that simultaneous treatment of the first person in a household that develops influenza (the index case), coupled with prophylaxis of the remaining household contacts, provides an additional protective efficacy (63 percent in households, 73 percent in individuals) against influenza-like illness. Additionally, Tamiflu was shown to reduce the time with symptoms, or days bed-bound, in contacts developing influenza by up to two-and-a half days.

"Preventing influenza among family members is important because the family unit plays a major role in spreading the highly contagious disease," said Robert Belshe, M.D., of Saint Louis University and the lead investigator of the FIT study. "Children often bring influenza into the home and transmit the virus to other family members, contributing to the social and economic impact that the influenza virus causes each year. The FIT study findings are significant because they show that antivirals provide physicians and families another option to protect against the transmission of influenza in the household."

Influenza is a highly contagious disease that affects up to 40 million Americans each year. During an influenza community outbreak, people are highly susceptible to catching the virus simply by performing their daily routine activities. The spread of influenza among households is very common.

"A couple of years ago my oldest daughter came down with the flu on Christmas Eve. Within twelve hours the flu had spread to the whole family. We had to cancel our travel plans and spent the entire holiday in bed, feeling absolutely miserable," said Patricia Lindenbusch, FIT study participant of St. Louis, Missouri. "Last year, when my three-year-old daughter came down with the flu, I wanted to take every precaution to avoid another family flu epidemic. The rest of our family entered the FIT study, took Tamiflu and did not get sick. My husband and I were thrilled that the flu did not disrupt our family, and ruin our holidays again this year."

About the FIT Study

During an influenza outbreak in the community, households entered the study if any member over the age of one developed influenza-like illness, and presented to the physician within 48 hours of symptom onset. The index case, or first person with flu in each household, received treatment with Tamiflu. Households were randomized into two groups: in the first group, contacts (household members) received 10 days of once daily prophylaxis with Tamiflu after the first person was diagnosed with flu; in the second group, close contacts received treatment with Tamiflu only when influenza symptoms developed. In total, 271 households, with 792 contacts, were randomized into the study.

Of the 400 contacts in the group that received post-exposure prophylaxis, 11 (3 percent) developed febrile laboratory confirmed influenza illness compared to 40 of 392 contacts (10 percent) in the group that received treatment after influenza symptoms appeared-an individual protective efficacy of 73 percent. In the group of 135 affected households that received post-exposure prophylaxis, 10 (7 percent) developed febrile laboratory confirmed influenza illness compared to 27 of the 136 households (20 percent) in the group that received treatment after influenza symptoms appeared-a household protective efficacy of 63 percent. These findings suggest that treatment of the index case, coupled with simultaneous prophylaxis with Tamiflu of household contacts, can significantly reduce the secondary spread of influenza in households.

"With three kids, our family is constantly on the move. With our busy schedules we cannot afford to be sick, or even worse, to spread a contagious virus to each other," said Mrs. Lindenbusch. "Tamiflu was a great benefit to our family last season. My husband and I welcome a medication that not only treats the flu but also can prevent it from spreading to the rest of the family."

Tamiflu was well tolerated in the FIT study. No serious drug related events were reported and less than one percent of subjects discontinued either prophylaxis or treatment. The most frequently reported adverse events were gastrointestinal disturbances. There was no evidence of viral resistance in either treated cases or among subjects receiving prophylaxis.

Tamiflu is not a substitution for an influenza vaccination. You should continue to get an influenza vaccination every year, according to your healthcare professional's advice. Serious bacterial infections may begin with influenza-like symptoms or may co-exist with or occur as complications during the course of influenza. Tamiflu has not been shown to prevent such complications.

Source: PRNewswire.

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