Relenza (zanamivir), Glaxo Wellcome's much maligned antiflu drug, has received another knock in the medical press. This time, studies show that the product is too difficult for elderly people to use properly.
The drug is meant to be taken in a five day course as an inhaled powder delivered by a contraption called the Diskhaler. But researchers found that most of the people who are supposed to benefit from the drug the over 65s cannot use the device. A group of 73 elderly patients were instructed in how to take Relenza using either the Diskhaler or another inhalation device called a Turbohaler. Half of the Disk haler group could not load and prime the device after 15 minutes of instruction. This rose to 65 per cent 24 hours later. In contrast, only two patients were unable to load and prime the Turbohaler.
Reasons for the difficulty with the Diskhaler included arthritis, weakness, poor dexterity, poor vision and poor cognitive function (BMJ, 2001; 322: 1-4).