September 24, 2009

Children’s Tamiflu In Short Supply

In a flux of news regarding flu vaccine production and availability, the makers of Tamiflu have alerted doctors that there is a shortage of the children's version of the drug, which serves as the first-line treatment for both swine flu and seasonal flu.

Doctors and pharmacists were given a heads up about the shortage of the liquid version of Tamiflu for kids and were instructed on how to handle prescriptions meanwhile, reported the associated press.

Ever since the swine flu first came on the scene in April, Switzerland-based Roche Holdings has seen an overwhelming demand for Tamiflu and has focused on producing adult-strength pills, which can be made more quickly than the children's formula, company spokeswoman Kristina Becker said Wednesday.

There is no shortage of the adult-dosage pills, which can be ground into children sized doses by pharmacies, she said.

Tamiflu and Relenza are the only drugs that can combat the swine flu, and according to a message to pharmacists from government officials, Relenza is currently well stocked.

The most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the swine flu is still going strong, after 21 states reported widespread cases. The seasonal flu is an even greater threat now that the weather is turning colder.

Tamiflu has been prescribed the most for those with seasonal flu. If given shortly after symptoms appear, the treatment can reduce the time and severity of the sickness.

The adult dosage is a 75-milligram pill twice a day, while children's dosages depend on their weight. Children are typically given smaller pills or a sweet liquid form of the medicine.

Roche notified doctors and pharmacists earlier this month of its production decision. The Wednesday announcement was a reminder that such shortages may occur. The company was also sure to encourage safety while using pills to fill prescriptions for liquids.

Jim Cohn, a spokesman for Walgreen's, which has pharmacy locations in every state, said the chain has seen shortages in several regions

"I would not say this is a crisis," he said.

If there are shortages, health officials say that people who are hospitalized and those at risk for severe flu complications, like young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions should have first dibs of the drug.

Tamiflu is produced in several different facilities, including some in the United States. There has been an increase in production, and by next year it is expected to have jumped 10-fold since 2005.

Becker said that by then, the company will be making 33 million courses of the treatment per month, with each courses of treatment being two daily doses for five days.


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