World War II Tactic Could Double Avian Flu Arsenal

Combining Tamiflu with common generic drug would slow antiviral's excretion in urine

TUESDAY, Nov. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors believe that a tactic invented during World War II to stretch penicillin supplies could double the Tamiflu arsenal available to fight avian flu, according to a news exclusive in the Nov. 3 issue of Nature.

Combining Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) with the common generic drug probenecid would stop the antiviral drug from being excreted in urine, Nature reports.

Joseph Howton, M.D., director of the Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Ore., publicly raised the idea after stumbling upon it while browsing through safety data from Tamiflu's Swiss manufacturer, Roche. "It dawned on me that the data potentially represented a tremendous therapeutic benefit," Howton told Nature.

As the world girds for a possible flu pandemic, the World Health Organization recommends countries store enough Tamiflu for 25% of their population. Roche, the drug's sole supplier, has quadrupled production, but current supplies will likely only protect 2% of the world population, according to Nature.

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