Almost immediately after the first cases of viral infection with pandemic (H1N1) 2009 (swine flu; formerly known as influenza A [H1N1]) were identified, certain Web sites, taking advantage of widespread public concern, began to offer a wide variety of products purported to diagnose, prevent, treat, mitigate, or cure the disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warn that such sites may be advertising fraudulent drug products misrepresented as antivirals, and others may be offering dietary supplements or other products for the prevention and treatment of the virus that, in fact, have no known effect on the disease.
According to an FDA news release from May 1 (http://bit.ly/4FHNo), such products will not "prevent the transmission of the virus or offer effective treatments against infections caused by the H1N1 influenza virus" and may be ineffective or unsafe. One of the sites identified (www.noswineflu.com) offers a "swine flu prevention guide" that provides links for the purchase of herbs and dietary remedies it claims will prevent the disease. Another such site (http://bit.ly/sVpxv) sells probiotic supplements it claims can prevent both pandemic (H1N1) 2009 infection and avian flu (H5N1). The FDA and the FTC will take regulatory or criminal action against offending sites that don't correct or remove such promotions. At present, the agency has approved two antiviral drugs, Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), for the prevention and treatment of the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus. Nurses should tell their patients about information available from the FDA on the safe purchase of medication online (see http://bit.ly/PHiFX). For more information on FDA-approved antiviral drugs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations regarding the use of them for H1N1, go to http://bit.ly/2p0K64 and http://bit.ly/wjLtm, respectively.