WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Manufacturing
problems have created a shortage of the liquid form of Tamiflu,
which is designed for young children who can't swallow capsules,
U.S. health officials announced Wednesday.
The drug's maker, Genentech, has fallen behind in production of
this version of the flu medication, according to the U.S. Food and
However, the shortage doesn't include the capsule form of
Tamiflu, which remains in good supply, said Dr. Michael Jhung, a
medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention's Influenza Division.
Flu vaccines also remain widely available and unaffected by
shortages, FDA spokesman Eric Pahon said. The CDC recommends
vaccination for everyone older than 6 months of age as the best way
to try to ward off the flu.
A shortage of liquid Tamiflu could cause some children to be
sick with the flu longer, Jhung said. However, capsule Tamiflu can
be converted into liquid form by a pharmacy to treat very ill
children, he said.
"For those patients who cannot swallow capsules, the capsules can be opened and the contents may be mixed with chocolate syrup or some other thick, sweet liquid, as directed by a health-care professional," according to the FDA announcement on the shortage.
Jhung added that this is a "spot" shortage that should only
affect some parts of the country. The FDA expects the shortage to
be resolved within a week.
Genentech, which cited heavy demand as the reason for the
shortage, contacted the FDA a couple of days ago about the problem
and is acting quickly to resolve it, Jhung said.
Dr. Robert Wergin, president-elect of the American Academy of
Family Physicians, said Tamiflu reduces flu symptoms, but it's not
a cure for the flu.
Wergin also said Tamiflu is the only option for treating flu in
young children. The other flu antiviral drug, Relenza, is not
recommended for children younger than 7 as a flu treatment, and not
younger than 5 as a preventive therapy to protect against flu. On
the other hand, Tamiflu is approved down to 2 weeks of age, he
Wergin, a family physician in Milford, Neb., said Tamiflu
treatment should begin within 24 hours of infection. "The sooner
you start it, the better," he said. "It works on disrupting viral
replication, and the longer you wait the more it will have
The liquid Tamiflu shortage comes during what has been a typical
flu season, Jhung said.
"We're not experiencing an unexpected amount of influenza this season," he said. "We anticipate increasing activity, but none of this is out of the ordinary for flu season in America."
Flu remains below epidemic levels, according to the latest CDC
statistics. There are about 5.8 confirmed flu cases per 100,000
people. Two children have suffered flu-related deaths, according to
The breakdown of flu activity across the United States looked
like this on Dec. 28, the date of the most recent CDC
For more on the flu, visit the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
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