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Tamiflu Shortage Again

By Rita Rubin
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH

Jan. 8, 2014 -- The liquid form of the flu drug Tamiflu is in short supply because of early strong demand.

But the shortage is expected to be brief, lasting only through mid-January, according to its manufacturer, Genentech.

Doctors typically give the liquid form of the antiviral drug, called Tamiflu OS, to children under age 13 or to people who have trouble swallowing. It is approved for babies as young as 2 weeks old.

"There has been strong and early demand for Tamiflu Oral Suspension (OS), and we are experiencing a temporary delay in packaging" it, says Genentech spokeswoman Tara Iannuccillo.

The shortage does not include the capsule form of Tamiflu, Iannuccillo says.

She says patients should talk with their doctor or pharmacist if they can't get the liquid form.

Health care professionals can mix Tamiflu 75-milligram capsules into a liquid for people who need to take it that way, she says.

Also, parents can give children over 1 year of age Tamiflu 30-milligram or 45-milligram capsules mixed with chocolate syrup or another thick, sweet liquid, according to the FDA web site.

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have reported cases of confirmed flu. So far this winter, flu activity has been most intense in the South-Central and Southeastern sections of the United States, the CDC says.

During this 2013-2014 flu season, the most dominant flu virus is the pH1N1 virus. In 2009 it was first identified as swine flu when it caused a pandemic that hit more young children and young adults than older adults.

This season, six U.S. children have died from pH1N1 flu, according to the CDC.

All flu vaccine options this season protect against pH1N1.

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SOURCES: Tara Iannuccillo, Genentech spokeswoman. FDA: "Current Drug Shortages." Tamiflu.com: "Emergency Compounding." CDC: "U.S. Flu Season Is Here, CDC Urges Vaccination."

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