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US Stockpile Shortage of Tamiflu Described on Primetime

Recombinomics Commentary

September 15, 2005

According to Leavitt, that is a long way from the country's ideal stockpile. "Our objective is to have 20 million doses of Tamiflu or enough for 20 million people," he says.

He later admitted that only 2 million are currently on hand, but asserted that no other country is in a better position.

Officials in Australia, however, have 3.5 million courses of treatment, and in Great Britain, officials say they have ordered enough to cover a quarter of their population.

"I think at the moment, with 2.5 million doses, you are pretty vulnerable," warns Professor John Oxford of the Royal London Hospital.

"The lack of advanced planning up until the moment in the United States, in the sense of not having a huge stockpile I think your citizens deserve, has surprised me and has dismayed me," he admits.

Faced with worldwide demand, the Roche company, which produces Tamiflu, has organized a first-come, first-serve waiting list. The United States is nowhere near the top.

"The way we are approaching the discussions with governments is that we are operating on a first-come, first-serve basis," says Dr. David Reddy, head of the pandemic task force at Roche.

"Do we wish we had ordered it sooner and more of it? I suspect one could say yes," admits Leavitt. "Are we moving rapidly to assure that we have it? The answer is also yes."

When asked why the United States did not place their orders for Tamiflu sooner, Leavitt replied, "I can't answer that. I don't know the answer to that."

The above comments from ABC News Primetime appear to have caused a rush on Google searches, which will likely translate into a run on Tamiflu tomorrow.  The public appears to be shocked that the US stockpile is so low.

However, the above comments that 20 million doses are enough for 20 million people is a bit misleading.  Although one course is for treating one person for five days, animal studies have suggested that five days is not long enough and the FDA approved dose may not be sufficiently high.  These numbers collapse for prophylatic use because the Tamiflu only works while it is being taken, so protection for 60 days would require 6 courses per person at the FDA recommended dose, which may also be too low since the mice died even though they were give Tamiflu prior to infection.

It seems that the public is due to receive several rude awakenings when they realize that Tamiflu is sold out and its effectiveness has not been convincingly demonstrated.


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