With thousands of children falling sick with swine flu, pharmacies are running out of the liquid version of Tamiflu, the antiviral medicine commonly given to children.
The solution? Pharmacists are converting the pill form into a liquid dosage.
The process, called compounding, has been used at pharmacies across the nation, including Walgreens.
"We have had no interruption or inability to fill prescriptions," Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn said of the Tamiflu supplies in the Tampa Bay region.
Reports of spot shortages around the nation coincide with swine flu's deadliest week for children since the pandemic started in April. The deaths of at least 19 more children were announced Friday by officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In all, at least 114 children have died from swine flu complications since the spring.
With children among the most vulnerable to the virus, the CDC has recently released 534,000 courses of the liquid Tamiflu, all of the pediatric liquid drug which had been held in government stockpiles.
Still, the medication is recommended only in certain situations.
"For the vast majority of people who have an illness that isn't severe and who don't have the underlying factors like very young age, pregnancy, or chronic health conditions, probably just bed rest, fluids and a little TLC is the right way to go," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, during a press briefing this week.
Roche, the company that makes Tamiflu, had increased production of the capsule form to better meet anticipated demand during the H1N1 pandemic.
Parents should not play pharmacist and try to compound their own liquid Tamiflu, health official warn. But if children are prescribed the pills, adults can break open the capsule and mix the power inside with chocolate syrup to make it easier for children to take.
There have been reports of insurance companies, whose systems may not have caught up with the supply issues, not covering the compounded drug, which can cost around $130 for cash-paying customers. Companies such as Medco took steps several weeks ago to rectify the issue.
Letitia Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3322. For more health news, visit www.tampabay.com/health.