Supply of Tamiflu will be rationed in Australia after a rush on the anti-viral drug in response to the global swine influenza outbreak.
Drug maker Roche will supply Tamiflu to hospitals for treatment of confirmed cases of influenza.
GPs will have to contact the company directly and more stock for wholesalers and pharmacies will be made available in the future, federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon said on Tuesday.
About 10,000 Tamiflu courses are usually sold in an entire flu season. More than 120,000 courses have been sold in the past week.
“This will help tackle the issue that we fear some people are stockpiling individually these anti-virals when they have no symptoms,” Ms Roxon told reporters in Canberra.
“A rush on these pills and capsules if you don\’t need them does put at risk treatments being available for people that do need them.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has extended the shelf life for Tamiflu capsules from five years to seven.
The government will return about 2.6 million courses from the national stockpile that it purchased from Roche, which the company will now re-sell to the private market. The stockpile will then be replenished with new stocks of Tamiflu.
New stocks of Tamiflu will start coming onto the market in the next few weeks. “It\’s anticipated that this will provide 20,000 courses of Tamiflu per week,” Ms Roxon said.
TGA principal medical adviser Ruth Lopert said people who already had a supply of Tamiflu should abide by the expiry date, as the drug may not have been stored correctly.
She said it was a routine process for manufacturers to seek approval to extend the shelf life of a drug, and the TGA dealt with such applications about 50 times a year. Some 454 people have been tested for swine flu in Australia, with 430 cleared.
The remaining 24 people – 19 in NSW, three in South Australia, and one in each Tasmania and Queensland – are awaiting results. An eight-month-old baby in childcare in Tasmania has been cleared of swine flu.