Friday, May 1, 2009

The True Epidemic Approaching: Mass Tamiflu Poisoning

The purpose of this thread is to provide a general overview of what Tamifluis and a brief look into the forces behind it in light of the latest frenzy of media activity regarding the swine flu. 

What is Tamiflu? 

Known by the trade name Tamiflu, Oseltamivir is a drug designed to treat flu
symptoms after initial onset marketed to all individuals over one year of age. It functions by serving as an inhibitor to the proteins that a virus requires to break out of cells upon mass replication within the cell body - which presumably wind up dieing out within their cellular prison. The end result is that if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symtoms, it can reduce the duration of the illness by about 30% or 1.3 days. It has been recommended as a mechanism to offset symptoms as well as preventativemedication in communities with a suspected outbreak of the so called "Epidemic" flus of the past decade - from Avian Flu to the present Swine Flu. 

Who distributes Tamiflu and how is it manufactured? 

Oseltamivir is manufactured of llicium floridanum, or Chinese Star Anise, an herb indigenous to southeast Asia. During a 10 step process which takes a year to complete and involves some fairly precarious high explosive work, Shikimic acid is extracted from the plant and serves as the active ingredient in Tamiflu. It is refined into oral capsules as well as a spray for inhalation, and an injectable delivery system is presently being tested. 

In a slightly off topic note, 
a warning was initiated by the FDA back in 2003 to avoid Star Anise teas, which were being marketed increasingly in the wake of the initial flu pandemic fears, due to an outbreak of illnesses including serious neurological effects such as seizures, vomiting, jitteriness and rapid eye movement. It was believed to be caused due to a contamination of Japanese Star Anise, a similar species of tree which is a known poison. 

Oseltamivir itself was invented by Gilead Sciences Inc. in 1996, and due to lackluster sales the commercial and manufacturing rights were quickly sold to Roche of Switzerland - 
named top corporate criminal of the 90's by the Multinational Monitor - in exchange for annual royalties. Four years ago a dispute was settled in which Gilead charged Roche with failing to adequately promote and produce the drug as well as contamination issues and invoked a contract clause to demand the return of all commercial and manufacturing rights, which was settled by a payment of retroactive royalties as well as the creation of a body to promote globalized production of generic Tamiflu - somewhat coicidently in stride with a renewed burst of fear mongering in the media provoking a massive stockpiling of the drug. In the time since, amidst fears of global pandemic, stockpiling has gone global with countries everywhere scrambling to purchase the drug, which sells for upwards of 100$ a dose - with the increased demand leading to Roche outsourcing much of the production process - setting the stage for windfall profits. 

What are the side effects of Tamiflu? 

"Adverse drug reactions include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and headache - rarer reactions include hepatitis and liver disorder, rash, severe allergic reactions, and Stephen-Johnson Syndrome (often fatal detachment of skin)... other ADRs reported in post-marketing surveillance including: toxic epidermal necrolysis (skin falling off), irregular heartbeat, seizure, confusion, abnormal behavior, inability to walk, convulsion, loss of consciousness, hallucination, aggravation of diabetes, and haemorrhagic colitis (digestive disorders)." -From Wikipedia and FDA reports