PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With influenza still on the rise, it was inevitable that one medication used to reduce the flu’s severity would be in short supply.
“We do have some pharmacies in the area that will tell us they are out this week of Tamiflu,” Dr. Patrick Tate, a South Hills pediatrician, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
Tate says it’s not a manufacturing issue but a supply issue, and it’s especially acute for children with the flu.
“Those spot shortages make it difficult for families to start the treatment as soon as possible because that’s part of the recommendations — within 48 hours,” Tate said. “So if you’re seen in the evening, you go to your pharmacy and it’s not there, whether or not there’s a shortage in the city really doesn’t matter to you because you need that drug tonight.”
Here’s the problem.
The brand name Tamiflu is very expensive, so most pharmacies fill it with the generic versions, and this generic form can be as low as $10, depending on your co-pay and insurance company.
But there’s a shortage — a shortage of the children’s version, which is a liquid form, a generic liquid form of Tamiflu.
Pharmacist Adam Rice owns the Spartan Pharmacy chain in Pittsburgh, and he says the pediatric liquid generic Tamiflu is not easily available.
“From the local drug store chains to the national drug store chains, pretty much everyone to T is saying that they’re out,” says Rice.
Spartan still has a supply so it gets calls looking for the generic Tamiflu.
“Just as recently as last week. someone called all the way from Frederick, Maryland, looking for it for her two infant grandchildren,” Rice said.
In an emergency, both Tate and Rice say you can take an adult capsule, break it apart, and pour the powder into a liquid.
“Using some simple pharmacy math, we are able to dilute that into a syrup and basically produce the a generic for children,” notes Rice, the pharmacist.
But that will take a cooperative pharmacist.