TAMIFLU: YOU WAIT
By TOBY WALKER
CLARENCE VALLEY residents prescribed the influenza drug Tamiflu have been forced to join waiting lists for the drug as the Howard Government builds up its reserves in anticipation of an outbreak of the much-feared bird flu.
Supplies of the tablet-form drug have dried up leaving pharmacies in the Clarence Valley in the dark as to when their back-orders will be met.
Despite claims in the media that the Howard Government has been stockpiling the anti-viral drug to fight a bird flu pandemic, local pharmacies have not been officially informed of why their orders have not been met.
Yamba Fair pharmacist Nevil Hall said he first became aware of the supply problem around two months ago when he was unable to replenish his Tamiflu stock.
He was told by a pharmaceutical distributor that there simply wasn't any n Continued: P3.
available and that his pharmacy would have to wait.
Ken Hall, of Stanfords Pharmacy at Maclean, tells a similar story.
Mr Hall has been informed by a North Coast distributor that he would have to wait until at least mid-November for the drug.
Both pharmacists said they had received a number of prescription requests for the drug but most of those had been from people about to travel overseas.
It is believed the Howard Government has reserves of close to four million doses of Tamiflu which would be most likely go to health workers, emergency service personnel and police in the event of an outbreak.
But a question still remains as to how effective the drug might be against a new strain of bird flu. Late last month Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott warned against amassing personal stockpiles of Tamiflu.
"Well, if people want to buy Tamiflu, they're perfectly entitled to do so," he said.
"I should warn them though that it is highly unlikely that they will be able to secure enough Tamiflu to protect them and their loved ones for the estimated three months duration of the first wave of a pandemic.
"And, in any event, at this stage we don't believe that it is safe to use Tamiflu for more than six weeks at any one period of time."