GMTV presenter: 'My daughter almost died after taking Tamiflu'

Health Secretary Andy Burnham has defended giving swine flu drug Tamiflu to children as TV presenter Andrew Castle said his daughter "almost died" after taking it.

Mr Burnham was confronted by Castle on GMTV after research cast doubt that the anti-viral drug's benefits outweighed its side-effects.

The presenter said: "I can tell you that my child - who was not diagnosed at all - she had asthma, she took Tamiflu and almost died."

Castle said his daughter, Georgina, had a "respiratory collapse" and "suffered very heavily" after being "just handed" the drug without having been properly diagnosed.

Mr Burnham sympathised with Castle, saying it must have been "very worrying", but maintained that advice to parents to treat swine flu with Tamiflu remained unchanged.

He said Georgina would have been given Tamiflu during the earlier "containment" phase of swine flu. He stressed that the research dealt with seasonal flu and not swine flu, saying: "It's very much a safety-first approach."

Given that swine flu had a "disproportionate effect" on children, he maintained that Tamiflu was "our only line of defence".

Some 300,000 people in England, including children and adults, have received courses of Tamiflu through the Government's National Pandemic Flu Service for England.

But yesterday Oxford University researchers said children should not be given the anti-viral drug to combat swine flu. They urged the Department of Health to urgently rethink its policy on giving the drug to youngsters affected by the current flu pandemic.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, warned that Tamiflu can cause vomiting in some children, which can lead to dehydration and the need for hospital treatment. The researchers said children should not be given the drug if they have a mild form of the illness, although they urged parents and GPs to remain vigilant for signs of complications.

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