Social media is buzzing about reports of neuropsychiatric symptoms following doses of Tamiflu to treat the flu. As people online debate whether Tamiflu is associated with self-injury and mood changes, the answer is as close as the drug’s own prescribing information. Tamiflu’s prescribing information clearly warns of the possibility of these events. The potential for neuropsychiatric events in patients receiving Tamiflu is clearly noted under the “warnings and precautions” section of the drug’s prescribing information.
Of course, so many prescriptions for Tamiflu have been filled this flu season across the nation that some pharmacies are even running out of the drug. So, the more prescriptions that are filled, the more likely we are to hear of adverse events.
Tamiflu’s prescribing information says that children might be particularly at an increased risk of neuropsychiatric events. It describes an increased risk of confusion and abnormal behavior in this section. This section also references a section later in the prescribing information. Post-marketing reports of “delirium and abnormal behavior leading to injury, and in some cases resulting in fatal outcomes,” are noted right in the medicine’s prescribing information.
It further notes that these events were voluntarily reported so estimates about the frequency of these events can’t actually be made. Still, based on how many prescriptions for Tamiflu are filled, these events appear to be “uncommon,” according to the manufacturer.
Patients Taking Tamiflu Should Be Closely Monitored
The manufacturer notes that encephalitis and encephalopathy can result from just having the flu. Still, it also states that these neuropsychiatric events following Tamiflu have also been reported in the absence of any severe disease too. It warns that patients taking Tamiflu should be closely monitored for abnormal behavior.
John A Burns School of Medicine’s Dr. James Ireland told KHON2 that side effects can follow Tamiflu, just as they can come with any medication.
“So there is a warning with the medication about these potential problems. So physicians prescribing it have to keep that in mind,” Ireland explained. “Also it’s important to keep that in mind that the benefit of the medication when treating generally outweighs the potential risks.”
RXlist points out that reports show that serious mental and mood changes are more likely in children. Additionally, breastfeeding moms should be aware that the medication does pass into breast milk.
The more serious side effects reported have included seizures, sudden confusion, delirium, hallucinations, unusual behavior and self injury. The CDC reports that Tamiflu benefits outweigh the risks, though each patient and their doctor should weigh individual risks verses benefits. Together with the AAP, they have an updated recommendation for the use of antivirals in children that suggests children with any severity of influenza should be treated. Still, the CDC does specify that “most people who are otherwise healthy and get the flu do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.”
As with any drug, prescribing instructions should be followed.
If you administer Tamiflu to a child, be sure that you are able to follow the prescribing information by keeping a close eye on the child. Furthermore, the FDA suggests reporting any unusual behavior, agitation or self-injury or any other side effects to their hotline at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online. It also suggests that you call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.