How not to waste money on useless drugs with unproved safety during a flu season.
Why it is reasonable to stay away from antiviral drugs
On the market today, there are many medical drugs and homeopathic medicines labeled as “medical drugs to prevent and treat colds and flu”. This drugs contain various active ingredients such as kagocel, umifenovir, interferons, azoximer bromide … . You don’t need to remember all these difficult to pronounce names. What is important is to be aware that all these products are promoted as “antiviral” or “immunomodulating”.
Advertising promise people who will take these drugs to recover faster and get sick rarer. Actually, there are no evidences to believe all this.
The first reason to ignore these drugs is the lack of adequate evidence of their effectiveness.
The search ‘kagocel’ in one of the largest data bases PubMed.gov shows 17 entries where kagocel is mentioned. There are reports about laboratory tests and studies with animals but there are no reports about randomized clinical studies (RCS) the results of which proved that kagocel really helps people to recover faster or get sick rarer.
The same is true with other drugs “to prevent and treat colds and flu”.
Why antiviral drugs efficiency is not established
If any medical drug could speed up recovery from flu and prevent it, then taking into account how common colds and flu are, it would be not a problem to complete a study and prove effectiveness of these drugs.
In this context, lack of evidence is a powerful argument demonstrating that drugs do not work or almost useless.
The problems of studies associated with antiviral drugs
To prove their false effectiveness, the results of clinical studies published in Russian medical journals are often cited.
The first thin to pay attention to – many of the links and references lead to nowhere, it means that you will never be able to find these studies.
In his article, Vasiliy Vlasov criticizes two available studies proving effectiveness of kagocel. Actually, these studies contain many evidences of poor practice, they have been sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies and even contain advertising material.
Safety of antiviral drugs
Lack of RCS means not only unproved effectiveness but also uninvestigated safety of drugs “to treat and prevent colds and flu”. This is the second reason to avoid these drugs.
Homeopathic medicines are less likely to develop side effects because they do not contain any active ingredients.
In case with other “immunomodulating and antiviral” drugs unknown safety profile leads to serious trust issues as these drugs are initially designed as no prescription drugs and anyone can buy them.
Kagocel contains gossypol, a substance with established ability to negatively affect male fertility. Toxicological studies of the substance have been carried out only with rats. There are no safety data for people but despite this fact, this drug can be given to children. According to international standards, this is unacceptable and unethical practice. If safety profile has not been yet established, the drug must be studied with adults and then it can be indicated for pediatric use.
Why these drugs are still sold on the market
There are several possible reasons.
Patients taking these drugs recover but not because drugs help them, their disease resolved spontaneously. However, not all people can readily recognize that they wasted their money and they begin recommend these drugs to their family and friends.
Many patients believe what the advertising says about effectiveness and safety. People and doctors get also disoriented by the fact that these drugs are supported by public health authorities and academic communities.
What you should do if your doctor prescribed you an antiviral drug
There is little hope that in the nearest future dishonest advertising campaigns, incompetence and financial interest will disappear. That is why, consumers should be better informed and should avoid taking these drugs.
How to treat colds and flu
Currently, we have very few antiviral drugs with modest effectiveness and intended only to treat flu, for example oseltamivir. At the onset of the disease, this drug can significantly reduce the duration of the disease (by one day, on average). Taking into account benign nature of the infection, it is not reasonable to take oseltamivir for many people.
There is no treatment for hundred other viral infections. Effective ways to prevent complications of these infection do not also exist.
Rules to treat colds are the following:
- To improve the symptoms of colds and flu, take cheap symptomatic agents.
- Patients should know which symptoms can lead to complications and when it is necessary to consult a doctor.