States find inadequate funds to stockpile flu medication

WASHINGTON The U.S. population’s flu pandemic has prompted a push from the federal government to stockpile drugs to treat it, putting more pressure on some states that do not have the budget to stockpile.

Twenty-five percent of Americans have the flu, and since 2003, H5N1 bird flu has killed 239 of 379 infected in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, according to published reports. The fear of bird flu and other viruses has caused a stockpiling program that has been running for about two and-a-half years. Due to government pressure, states have bought 71 percent of the 31 million courses of antivirals from the federal government, according to published reports.

A problem that has risen as a result of the stockpiling program is that not all states are able to purchase the flu medications. Many state officials have argued that they don’t have sufficient funds to stockpile. Florida’s Department of Health noted that it bought 66,000 antiviral courses, which is 3.7 percent of the 1.8 million goal that the government set for the state. According to published reports, one course treats one person.

Other states such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts, also have just begun to stockpile. Colorado also determined that it would not stockpile due to cost-factors. On the other hand, Louisiana has all of its antiviral medicine, along with 50,000 extra units.

According to published reports, the government has stockpiled 44 million courses of Roche’s Tamiflu, which covers 15 percent of the U.S. population. It also has 6 million additional courses in cases of an outbreak.

A growing issue is that not everyone state is adequately covered for a flu pandemic. Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit health advocacy group states, “Seventy percent is not adequate when you have pockets of the country with no or little coverage,” in response to the percentage of courses bought by states.