Is there a Tamiflu shortage in Houston area?

The maker of the popular flu drug is behind on making the liquid form for children. But doctors say there's no reason to panic
January 10, 2014 3:09:05 PM PST
Parents may be hearing about a possible shortage of the liquid flu drug for kids. Any shortage would be bad right now, as we hit the peak of the flu season, so we spoke with doctors who have some important tips.

The maker of Tamiflu, the best drug for the flu, is behind in making liquid Tamiflu for children. But we've learned that it hasn't been a major problem in the Houston area so far.

Meanwhile, more people have gone to the ER with flu symptoms than in the past 5 years. The Houston Health Department says that 7 percent of all ER visits are for flu symptoms, and seven people have died of the flu in Houston. Most have been young adults.

The Houston Health Department took a survey of 21 pharmacies on Friday, and all but one had both adult and liquid Tamiflu available. And a number of medical groups say there's not a shortage of Tamiflu capsules in Houston.

Tamiflu is an antiviral drug that improves flu symptoms and shortens the time you're sick. There have been some spot shortages of liquid Tamiflu for babies and young children. But the suspension can be made for babies at a compounding pharmacy like Doyle's Compounding Pharmacy.

"The manufacturer allows us to make the liquid from the capsules. The capsules seem to be more available than the liquid. We can always get the capsules," Doyle's Pharmacy pharmacist George Handal said. "I've made the liquid four times in the last two weeks and that's quite a bit."

"Nationwide there's not a shortage. It's just that Texas has experienced the worst of the flu outbreak so far," Kelsey-Seybold pediatrician Dr. Melanie Mouzoon said.

Dr. Mouzoon says what surprises her is that this flu is hitting healthy young adults the hardest. She says the dangerous part is a relapse when flu turns into pneumonia.

"It gets into the lungs and causes a viral pneumonia and that pneumonia is what's difficult for people to get over," she said. "So if you had the flu -- even if you've been treated with Tamiflu -- if you had really bad chest congestion or bad cough, get back in to see your doctor don't just try and struggle through it."

Doctors repeat that this year it's young adults who are dying of the flu, especially when it relapses. So if you have the flu and you start getting better then you get worse, that's the time to see a doctor.

Doctors say it's not too late for a flu shot because flu season is expected to last another six to eight weeks. The flu vaccine is still plentiful in our area.

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