Pharmacists searching to maintain Tamiflu supply

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on January 7, 2013 at 6:13 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 7 at 6:21 PM

AUSTIN -- Pharmacies in Central Texas and across the country are now running into shortages when it comes to Tamiflu -- a popular prescription flu treatment.

Chris Johnson, a pharmacist and owner of MedSavers Pharmacy, is spending a good portion of his work day these days trying to replenish his stock of Tamiflu.

"It's really interesting," said Johnson. "It's day to day."  

Johnson says even the larger pharmaceutical warehouses are running out.

"It's really difficult from our standpoint because we don't know from one day to the next if there's going to be a product in stock," he said. "It's not like a blood pressure medicine that we know is always there, and there are 10 manufacturers of a certain drug. This is one manufacturer. If that manufacturer is out production, then we're out of luck."  

Johnson says the early onset of flu this season is the main reason for the shortage.

"Basically what's happened with the Tamiflu expectation is that the manufacturer usually has their big production starting in January and February," said Johnson. "This hit really early. It's not just Austin.  It's around the country."

Dell Children's Medical Center reported nearly 200 cases of flu last week alone. Dell's chief of emergency medicine says while Tamiflu is another weapon in the fight against flu, it's important to remember it's not a cure all.

"In a healthy person the effect of Tamiflu is there, but it's really modest," said Pat Crocker, M.D. "It will shorten the illness by a day or a day-and-a-half and maybe make it more comfortable to get through the flu, but it doesn't cure the flu."  

Crocker says another issue with Tamiflu is when it's taken. He says it's mostly effective only if taken within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms.

Unlike adult Tamiflu, which is in a capsule form and still can be found with intense searching, pharmacists say there is no more supply of children's Tamiflu which comes in a liquid. Johnson says many pharmacies can crush the adult capsules and turn it into the proper liquid dosage for children.

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