Friday December 31, 9:35 AM EST
Got the Flu? Find Out the Truth About Relenza
You've seen the ads of the dopey looking guy hawking the new wonder drug Relenza. Relenza, an inhalant, is said to be the first prescribed drug for influenza -- a virus commonly called the flu bug.
In case you are wondering how Relenza can treat a virus -- when there are no known remedies for viruses -- wonder no more.
Dr. William Campbell Douglass, editor of Second Opinion newsletter, reports that the Food and Drug Admnistration approved Relenza "even though it doesn't work."
Dr. Douglass says that the FDA ignored the recommendation of its own advisory panel, which voted 13-4 against approving Relenza.
Dr. Heidi Jolson, director of FDA's antiviral drug division, suggested Relenza was approved because such antiviral drugs are rare and that Relenza "adds a new weapon to the very limited flu-fighting arsenal."
"This drug should never have been approved," explained Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the Public Citizen Health Research Group. He said the benefits are "close to zero."
Relenza also can be dangerous. Asthmatics are advised to have medications on hand just in case Relenza causes bronchial spasms. Side effects of Relenza -- which occur in 3 out of 100 users or less -- include sinusitis, nausea and diarrhea.
In ads for Relenza, the drug maker GlaxoWellcome doesn't explain how Relenza works to fight the flu. One ad encourages people with the flu to go to their doctor and ask for Relenza "to help start feeling better sooner."
What did scientific studies show for Relenza? According to Dr. Douglass, studies found that flu patients taking Relenza said their flu symptoms went away a day earlier than flu patients taking a placebo. But these findings were "based on self-reporting of people involved in the clinical trials and were not proven by laboratory tests."
Dr. Douglass bluntly calls Relenza a "medical swindle."
Instead of Relenza, how about something that always works: Chicken soup!