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News1999November › A second sniff › November 1999

A second sniff

If at first you don't succeed

If at first you don't succeed. . . Governments around the world are taking a dim view of flu vaccines, partly because they're expensive, but also because there is not enough evidence to show they are a proven preventative. A few might also be warned off by the American experience in the 1970s when the government was sued by patients or relatives of patients who either died or suffered serious reactions to the approved vaccine of its time.

Not to be deterred from a slice of this lucrative cake, the drug companies are now working on nasal sprays instead. First to be approved in the UK, Sweden and Australia is zanamivir, while waiting in the wings is ostelamivir, both virus restricting agents.

Zanamivir was tested on 455 flu patients and apparently relieved the symptoms quicker than a placebo. Researchers admitted that much more research needed to be carried out, and there was the small matter of adverse reactions, which included bronchitis and cough (BMJ 1999; 319: 655-6; Lancet 1998; 352: 1877-81).

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