Tamiflu Shortages from Coast to Coast as Flu Epidemic Ravages U.S.
Pharmacies and flu patients from coast to coast are reporting shortages of Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat symptoms of the flu (influenza). It is recommended for children and adults who have been symptomatic for no more than two days. In many cases, Tamiflu can minimize the symptoms of the flu (cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, fever, chills, aches, tiredness) and may also shorten the recovery time by 1-2 days. It essentially stops the flu virus from growing.
But due to increased demand as a result of the worst flu epidemic in recent years, many pharmacies are running out of Tamiflu. A GoodRx analysis of a representative sample of pharmacies found that pharmacy fills for Tamiflu are increasing. "In Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, and Arkansas, prescriptions are up over 20-fold from last year, and other parts of the south and midwest are likewise seeing an exceptionally high prescription volume.
Though there is a vaccine available for the flu, Tamiflu is often prescribed if symptoms start to appear, which helps explain the rapid surge in prescriptions this year. If taken within the first 28 hours of getting the flu, Tamiflu can work to block the actions of influenza in your body, and shorten the duration of the virus. You can also take Tamiflu for up to six weeks to prevent you from getting the flu.
Despite the surge of prescriptions, there are some doubts about whether Tamiflu is even effective for treatment or prevention – more on that below.
The national pattern closely resembles data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows these same states are some of the hardest hit by flu so far this year.
According to CDC data, cases of the flu reached high levels in southern states like Texas and Louisiana in the days before Christmas and then spread through the Midwest and the entire United States.
At the present moment, all states except for Maine, Montana, Idaho, Utah, North Dakota, Hawaii, Alaska, and the District of Columbia are seeing high rates of flu activity. Flu activity has been consistently high over the past 9 weeks and doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon. Flu season can last anywhere between 16 and 20 weeks, so experts predict there is still more to come.
On a national basis, prescriptions for Tamiflu are up more than 6 times last year’s rate. This is a stunning illustration of how bad the flu is – and how much worse it may still get.