Monday, 15. September 2014
01. 05. 09. - 14:00
By Thomas Hochwarter
The swine flu scare has thrown an Austrian scientist into the limelight this week as his creation - "Tamiflu" - has become the global medication of choice with which to fight the disease.
But regardless of his efforts, Norbert Bischofberger predicts dark times are ahead for the planet.
Bischofberger headed a research team to create "Tamiflu", the first orally active commercially developed anti-influenza medication, for US company Gilead Sciences in the 1990s.
The 55-year-old analytical chemist recalls: "We started working to create ‘Tamiflu’ in 1993. Three years later, the first clinical studies were conducted before the drug was released on the US market in 1999 by Swiss company Roche.
Switzerland was the first European country giving the green light to "Tamiflu" in 1999. Three years later, the European Union (EU) followed. Switzerland’s national airline Swiss Airways recently decided to hand out the drug on its long-distance flights.
"We decided to create a pill and not a medication to inhale because especially people who suffer from influenza struggle with breathing difficulties. And the agent would only reach the lung," he explains.
"Tamiflu" is expected to become the main medication in the case of a pandemic since "Relenza", the product of Roche’s competitor GlaxoSmithKline must be inhaled.
Roche estimates that around 50 million people have been treated with "Tamiflu" to this day. The company is currently considering an increase of production, stressing that the process takes around eight weeks.
"Tamiflu’s" agent Oseltamivir turned out to be an effective medication against the currently spreading H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. Bischofberger says "Tamiflu" is an essential precautionary measure all governments should take.
Bischofberger already warned in an interview in 2006 of an impending influenza pandemic, arguing that the last outbreak was in 1968 when no medication was yet available.
The recommendation is to take "Tamiflu" immediately after an infection but at the latest within 48 hours.
"The Spanish Flu of 1918 killed people within twelve hours – but not because of its effects on the lung but on the brain and on other organs. We learned this from conducting biopsies on corpses of people who died back then," Bischofberger, who has worked in Foster City near San Francisco for 20 years, explains.
"Tamiflu" was also an effective medication against the H5N1 virus known as bird flu which came up in 2005. Many governments, including those of the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, stockpiled "Tamiflu" in order to brace themselves for a possible pandemic.
Austria was back then also affected by some cases of the virus, and around ten per cent of the Austrian population got hold of "Tamiflu" as a precaution.
Today, Austria is well prepared for a swine flu pandemic since authorities secured around four million pills of "Tamiflu." The possession of this amount secures the effective treatment of up to 45 per cent of the country’s population.
Most of the "Tamiflu" in Austria is currently located in the country’s army bases where it will remain until further notice. Apart from the pills, the Austrian army possesses some eight million protective face masks to be used by the entire population in the event of a pandemic.
There are currently around 200 Austrians staying in Mexico. According to latest reports, none of these people have been infected with the swine flu virus.
Austrian Health Authorities are warning of travelling to the country since it is "hard to assess the overall situation", but also try to avoid the hysteria.
Christiane Körner, deputy chief of the Austrian pharmacy association said there has so far been "nobody being afraid to turn up" at a chemists, adding no stock-buying of "Tamiflu" had been registered.
Doubts over the medication’s reliability came up two years ago. "Tamiflu" inventor Bischofberger’s efforts were tarred when fatal neuropsychiatric incidents were linked to the drug.
The Japanese Health Ministry warned that "Tamiflu" should not be given to those aged between 10 and 19 after fifteen teenagers attempted suicide after taking the drug between 2004 and March 2007. Claims were however never scientifically confirmed and studies eventually dismissed the accusations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said this week the currently spreading virus is a "threat for health on an international scale."
The body set up an emergency plan for the case of an epidemic in 2005. Three million "Tamiflu" treatments could be acted out immediately if the body decides to call up the strategy – which has not yet happened in the current case.
Regardless of how well the currently spreading virus can be tackled, its emergence is expected to have dramatic effects.
The World Bank said the current recession could worsen as costs to fight the outbreak soar up to 2.3 billion Euros, leading to a decrease of international economic performance of around five per cent.
Experts estimate that the H1N1 virus has the potential to spread globally and claim victims all over the world.
But "Tamiflu" creator Bischofberger stresses it cannot be estimated for certain how many potential swine flu victims are really suffering from the new virus and how many were infected with the "real" influenza, which claims thousands of people everywhere all over the world.
Most victims are people living in third world countries who have no access to basic hygiene.
Bischofberger sees a high chance of the situation getting worse and a potential for new pandemics. He says: "I think the threat by new bacterial or viral agents is higher than the potential of a nuclear war."
» General News 2011-12-06
Michael Häupl, the mayor of Vienna, has suggested that the city and the state should share the management and maintenance costs for the country’s largest clinic.
» Business 2011-11-29
The number of doctors on night duty at Austria’s largest clinics is set to shrink, it has emerged.
» General News 2011-11-28
Vienna Vice Mayor Maria Vassilakou has vowed to keep fighting for a city road toll regulation.
Perversion of a Medical Dream
The Decline and Fall of the Otto Wagner Hospital, Vienna.
Fat Can Be Used To Burn Off Weight After New Patent Unveiled
It is being hailed as a sensation after scientists at an Austrian university patented a method that transforms fat storing cells into mini factories capable of actually destroying fat by burning it off.
Three Family Members Dead In Well Tragedy
A mother has lost her husband, her pregnant daughter and her son-in-law after a tragic accident where one of them fell into a well and the other two died while trying to carry out a failed rescue.
Brit Soldier Rescued After Climbing Mountain In T Shirt
A British soldier who tackled the frozen Austrian Alps wearing just shorts and a T-shirt has been rapped by officials after he had to be rescued from the snowy peak.
Mum And Daughter Struck By Lightning In Pool
A mother and her daughter were hospitalised after they were struck by lightning – in a swimming pool.
Police Nab Porn Star Who Filmed In Local Church
A woman accused of making a porn movie in a local church has been caught after an informant tipped off police that he recognised her by her breasts after an appeal for information.
Young Hip Hop Dancer Gets 18 Years For Drug Smuggling
A blonde hip hop dancer and charity worker promised an international career after she was spotted by a talent scout has been jailed for 18 years in Indonesia after her work offer turned out to have been part of an elaborate drugs con.
Teen Dying Of Cancer Killed At Charity Event After Ride In Porsche Goes Wrong
The family of a sick boy who was offered a trip in a high-performance Porsche because he was dying of cancer is suing the charity after the Porsche he was travelling in crashed head-on into oncoming traffic.
Japanese Pervert Planned Natascha Kampusch Style Kidnap
A Japanese man inspired by Austrian pervert Wolfgang Priklopil kidnapped a 10-year-old girl and kept her in a purpose-built cellar where he planned to train her to become the perfect wife.
German Hiker Yodels For Help After Getting Trapped In Cattle Grid
A portly hiker dressed in traditional Lederhosen was rescued after he yodeled for help after getting stuck for three hours in a cattle grid.
The most popular stories –
last 7 days
|Boy Five Had Eyes Gouged Out by Satanists|
|Freaked-out Mushroom Pickers Discover Bag-loads of Amputated Limbs in the Woods|
|Facebook Users Help Track a Huge Fireball Over Barcelona|
|Argentinian Cops Fake Car Accident|
|Naked Woman On Horse Rides Through Central Moscow|
Why suffer in silence. Let off steam by letting our readers share your troubles. File your complaints about anything and everything here.
Our ombudsman David Rogers will try and help solve some of the problems from lazy civil servants through to incompetent companies – and at the very least the worst transgressors will end up in our weekly special report.