As flu rages throughout Florida, Tamiflu supplies run low

As the nation grapples with a widespread flu outbreak and states continue to see spikes in flu activity, some pharmacies throughout Florida are struggling to keep up with the demand of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Due to the severity of flu this year, federal officials have recommended antiviral prescriptions such as Tamiflu for young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with conditions that leave them immunosuppressed.

Although the drugmaker of Tamiflu, Gilead Sciences, and major pharmacy chains noted there is not a shortage of the antiviral, the increased demand has led some pharmacies to run out of the drug for several days.

"I think it's a matter of supply and demand," Timothy Hendrix, MD, medical director of Orlando-based Florida Hospital Centra Care urgent care centers, told the Orlando Sentinel. "It's analogous to gas shortage during the hurricane."

The liquid form of Tamiflu, usually prescribed to children and adults that have difficulty swallowing pills, is most likely to be in low supply, according to the report. Pharmacies tend to carry a lower supply of the liquid form because it has a shorter shelf life, a professor at the Ann Arbor-based University of Michigan School of Public Health Arnold Monto, MD, told the Orlando Sentinel.

An Orlando resident, Amy Bowen, spent all day Thursday hunting down liquid Tamiflu, which was prescribed to her 5-year-old son at an ER the night before. Ms. Bowen said each CVS, Walgreens and Publix she went to was sold out of the liquid form.

In response to the low supply, a CVS spokesperson told the Orlando Sentinel, "[T]here may be instances when individual pharmacies could be temporarily out of stock. We recommend that patients call their local CVS Pharmacy in advance since inventory varies day to day."

While Tamiflu is not a cure for the flu, studies have confirmed the antiviral helps lessen flu symptoms and shorten its length.

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