Flu medication safe for pregnant women to take, big study shows

Unborn children won’t suffer harm if their mothers are prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza while carrying them, study of 700,000 women finds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 7:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 7:00pm

Unborn children suffer no harm when their mothers take flu medication during pregnancy, a study of some 700,000 women has found. It was the largest study ever to assess the potential risks of taking oseltamivir or zanamivir (better known as Tamiflu and Relenza) – the two main drugs to combat serious flu infections – during pregnancy, its authors said.

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The team compared almost 6,000 pregnant women in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and France who were prescribed oseltamivir or zanamivir between 2008 and 2010, with nearly 700,000 who were not. Taking into account factors such as age, smoking and the use of other medicines, the team found “no increased risks of adverse outcomes” from one group to the next. These included low birth weight, premature birth, stillbirth or birth defects.

On the contrary, the team found that children whose mothers had been prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza, drugs known as neuraminidase inhibitors, were less likely to be underweight.

Influenza flares every winter, putting millions of pregnant women at risk of severe illness during seasons with an aggressive virus strain, the research team said. Many medicine watchdogs therefore recommended the use of flu drugs, “despite limited knowledge on their safety and effectiveness during pregnancy”. This study, published in The BMJ medical journal, sought to correct that.

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Colon and rectal cancer rates are rising sharply among young and middle-aged adults in the United States but doctors have yet to pinpoint why, researchers say. These age groups face anywhere from two to four times the risk of colon and rectal cancer as their baby boomer counterparts, a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found.

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Experts say colon and rectal cancer can be inherited and also influenced by the high-fat, low fibre diets that are common in the Western world. “Our finding that colorectal cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level of those born in the late 1800s is very sobering,” said lead author Rebecca Siegel, a researcher with the American Cancer Society. “Educational campaigns are needed to alert clinicians and the general public about this increase to help reduce delays in diagnosis, which are so prevalent in young people, but also to encourage healthier eating and more active lifestyles to try to reverse this trend.”