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Tamiflu Supplies Running Dry as Flu Epidemic Tightens its Grip on the Nation

The flu epidemic gripping the country has led to a nationwide shortage of the anti-viral medication Tamiflu.

More than 105,000 flu cases have been confirmed nationally, making it the most widespread epidemic in 15 years.

On Tuesday, Victorian authorities said eight people aged between 70 and 94 had died after a flu outbreak at a nursing home in the state’s north-east.

A further 100 people fell ill in the outbreak at Wangaratta’s St John’s Retirement Village over the past few weeks.

Official figures have confirmed that August 2017 was the worst month on record for flu cases in NSW.

NSW Health data shows there were 35,670 confirmed flu cases in NSW in August, more than double the number of cases in July.

Six residents at a Tasmanian nursing home have also died.

A Federal Department of Health spokeswoman said the “temporary” shortfall affected all Tamiflu products.

“The Therapeutic Goods Administration has been informed that there has been a temporary shortage of Tamiflu which has affected all Tamiflu products,” she said.

“The 30 milligram and 45 milligram capsules are in shortage as well as the suspension [a liquid or powder form].”

However, she said, an increased supply of the 75 milligram capsule was being released with instructions on how to prepare a weaker dose from these capsules either by a compounding pharmacist or the patients themselves.

She said they believed more Tamiflu suspension was being released in the next few days, with all products expected soon.

Tamiflu is not subsidised under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but is available via prescription.

The Australian government maintains a stock of Tamiflu in the National Medical Stockpile as a strategic reserve for use in an influenza pandemic and is believed to have released some of its stock.

Dr Shane Jackson, president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, said it was encouraging to see the Federal government releasing extra supplies from the National Medical Stockpile.

He said it wasn’t too late to get a vaccine against the influenza.

“If you haven’t had a vaccination, visit your GP or community pharmacist to have a vaccine, even if you are not at high risk of influenza,” Dr Jackson said.

A spokeswoman for manufacturer Roche Australia said additional stock of the 75 milligram Tamiflu capsules and Tamiflu suspension formulation had been secured.

She said Roche and its distribution partner, Apotex, were working closely to fast track deliveries and restock the supply channels during the week, urging pharmacies to contact their wholesalers.

The Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president Dr Lorraine Baker said it was not too late in the season to get the vaccine.

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