With the flu season in full swing, it’s a bad time for a shortage of liquid Tamiflu for kids. The maker of Tamiflu, Genentech, says that manufacturing problems are putting them behind in production. Liquid Tamiflu is often given to children who have a difficult time swallowing capsules.
Fortunately, 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.
Tamiflu is an anti-viral drug. It works by attacking the flu virus to keep it from multiplying in the body and by reducing the symptoms of the flu. A shortage of the drug can cause some children to be sick with the flu for a longer period of time. The good news is that some pharmacies are able to take the Tamiflu capsule and convert it into a liquid form for children who are very ill.
"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 anti-viral drug can only work to reduce flu symptoms; it’s not a cure. But, if you’ve had the flu, you know any relief from the symptoms is welcomed.
Dr. Robert Wergin, president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians, has noted that 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 said.
The FDA says that the shortage is expected to be resolved within a week.
Texas, along with 24 other states is seeing widespread flu activity. Several deaths, including children and adolescents have been linked to the flu already. The dangerous H1N1 strain is responsible for the majority of the cases this year. The current trivalent flu vaccine covers the H1N1 strain as well as the A and B virus.
Flu symptoms can mimic a cold until the virus really takes hold of you. Serious flu symptoms that warrant a trip to the hospital or doctor are shortness of breath, if someone is exhibiting confusion, if a fever is not responding to medication and for infants- a dry diaper for longer than 6 hours.
The best way to avoid the flu or diminish its’ severity is for everyone in the family to get a flu shot as soon as possible.