U.S., Canadian health authorities report spot shortages of Tamiflu

As if the reported spot shortages of flu vaccine aren't bad enough, there have been reports of similar shortages of flu drugs throughout the United States and parts of Canada due to increased demand.

In a conference call with reporters Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist Joe Bresee said shortages of the oral suspension form of Roche's Tamiflu (oseltamivir) for children had appeared in some parts of the country. According to the Food and Drug Administration, Roche U.S. subsidiary Genentech had supplies of the drug on "intermittent backorder," but supplies remained in distribution at wholesalers and pharmacies, and there was no shortage of the adult formulation. Where shortages of the pediatric formulation had appeared, the FDA said, it was possible for pharmacists to break the capsules of the adult pills and reconstitute the ingredient to create an equivalent dose.

Canada's problem is just the opposite.

There, shortages of the adult formulation have appeared around the country amid unexpectedly high demand, prompting the Public Health Agency of Canada to draw on the national stockpile of the drug after discussions with Roche Canada.

"Canada has seen an earlier rise in flu cases than what we've seen in the last two years — in fact, our overall flu activity for this year is comparable to what we've seen for the entire 2011-2012 flu season," Public Health Agency of Canada director of surveillance and outbreak response Monique St-Laurent told Drug Store News. "Because of the increased flu activity, we've had a greater demand for the product than expected, and so it's mainly the 75-mg formulation of Tamiflu. So we've been working with the manufacturer."

St-Laurent said doses of the drug were expected to arrive at intended destinations as the most populated provinces had seen a decline in cases, while the western and maritime provinces had seen a rise.


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