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Verify: Are doctors being discouraged from prescribing Tamiflu to kids?

An online conversation claims doctors were told not to prescribe Tamiflu unless parents insisted

ATLANTA — Flu activity across the country is still at a high according to the latest report from the CDC, so when a Facebook conversation popped up on 11Alive suggesting doctors are reluctant to prescribe Tamiflu for children, we wanted to verify the claims.

In the Facebook post, a mom writes her daughter was diagnosed with the flu at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta urgent care and said her doctor said physicians were told not to prescribe Tamiflu unless parents insisted.

“When my daughter was diagnosed with the flu at a CHOA urgent care, the dr we saw said that they were told not to prescribe Tamiflu unless the parents insisted. They said that there have been way too many complications associated with the medication and children,” the post said.

In response, a similar story was shared by a patient from Cartersville Medical Center: “Same here at Cartersville Medical Center. They said they only recommended it for the immunocompromised or unless somebody insisted on getting it.”

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VERIFY: Are doctors being discouraged from prescribing Tamiflu to kids?

First, a recap on Tamiflu, which is one type of antiviral  approved to fight the flu. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend Tamiflu for early treatment of flu in any age and for the prevention of flu in patients 3 months and older. But there can be side effects, commonly nausea and upset stomach or less commonly, behavioral changes.

“I do know there are different opinions about the use of Tamiflu but regardless…there are very clear recommendations right now,” Dr. Flor Munoz, pediatrician and part of the Academy of American Pediatricians' Committee on Infectious Diseases, told 11Alive.

“There is no concern regarding the efficacy of the treatment or the side effects for being a reason to discourage at all, the use of antivirals specifically Tamiflu in patients of influenza,” Dr. Munoz said, adding the CDC and AAP are clearly aligned in terms of the guidelines for prescribing the antiviral to children.  

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What does the Academy of Pediatricians recommend?

According to the current guidelines, AAP recommends offering antiviral treatment “asap” to kids hospitalized with the flu or those with a high risk of complications, which includes kids under five or those with chronic conditions.  The group also advises doctors consider such treatment for any child suspected to have the flu.  

What did the medical institutions say?

While we can’t verify the conversations that took place between provider and patients in the posts, 11Alive did reach out to the hospitals mentioned for clarification.  A spokesperson at Cartersville Medical told 11Alive doctors follow the CDC guidelines and provide best possible treatment based on the unique needs of patient. While Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta released the following statement, confirming doctors are not discouraged from prescribing Tamiflu.

“Every medication has a potential risk and a potential benefit. Clinicians individually evaluate children who are ill and weigh the risk and benefit of antiviral medication for flu or suspected flu infections. There are guidelines – based on studies of adults and a few in children – that help clinicians make decisions. However, clinicians ultimately make decisions based on a number of factors including when symptoms started, the age of the child, and any existing medical conditions. Clinicians are not discouraged from administering antiviral medications, but rather apply their clinical knowledge to determine whether or not the benefit of an antiviral medication outweighs its risk.” – Dr. Andi Shane

According to these hospitals, the CDC and the AAP, we can verify doctors are not being discouraged from prescribing Tamiflu to kids. That is false, but other factors may be considered and according to Dr. Munoz, deciding a treatment plan should not be a one-way conversation.

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“I think the decision on treating a child…needs to be one making a shared decision between parent and provider,” she said.

11Alive also reached out to other metro hospitals regarding treatment of the flu in children. Here are additional hospital statements:

"There's very good data that the flu vaccine greatly reduces morbidity and mortality. The vaccine unquestionably works. Northside has very clear guidelines on how and when to use Tamiflu and they're completely in line with CDC guidelines. A totally healthy seven-year-old, they don't need Tamiflu, I agree. But a five-year-old with asthma does. There's a lot of data that suggests people have a lower risk of dying if they receive Tamiflu as early as possible” - Dr. Adam Friedlander, Dir. of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Northside Hospital 


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