CDC Chief Defends Antiviral Flu Drugs

Influenza is widespread across the United States and this flu season is shaping up to be especially harsh, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

Antiviral drugs such as Roche’s Tamiflu were underutilized, the CDC’s Dr. Thomas Frieden said, urging doctors to prescribe the drugs to patients with flu-like symptoms even before tests confirm influenza as the cause.

The United States is about midway through the 2014-15 flu season, Frieden said on a conference call, adding this was “a bad year for flu, especially for older people and people with underlying health conditions.”

Frieden acknowledged that some doctors in the United States may not be prescribing Tamiflu because they believe the drugs do not work.

The effectiveness of such antivirals has been the subject of fierce debate, with some researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration, a non-profit group, claiming there is little evidence Tamiflu works.