Feb. 21, 2013 -- With flu season dragging on, supplies of the children’s version of the flu drug Tamiflu continue to dwindle nationwide, according to the drug's maker.
The liquid medicine, called Tamiflu OS (for oral suspension), is approved for children 2 weeks old and older.
It attacks the flu virus, helping to lessen the flu's ability to spread in the body. It must be taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms. In clinical trials, it did not cure the flu, but shortened its length by 1.5 days in kids.
Supplies are spotty. "While we have shipped all quantities of Tamiflu OS to distributors, some retail pharmacies may still have it," says Tara Iannuccillo, spokeswoman for Genentech, the drug's maker.
"However, quantities are limited nationwide," she says.
No additional supplies of Tamiflu OS will be available for this season, Iannuccillo says.
"Given the amount of time it takes to manufacture Tamiflu OS, we don't plan to make more for the 2012/13 flu season, as it wouldn't be ready in time," she says.
However, the adult version is still available. Parents can ask their pharmacist to make a liquid suspension for children using the adult Tamiflu capsules, Iannuccillo says.
Concerns about a Tamiflu shortage began earlier in the season. In mid-January, the FDA warned of upcoming occasional shortages of the children's medicine.
Supplies of Tamiflu for children ran low due the severity of this year's flu season, Iannuccillo says. Compared to past seasons, flu season began earlier this year, according to the CDC.
To ensure continued supplies of the adult version, the FDA is allowing Genentech to distribute 2 million units of the 75-milligram capsules that have an older version of the package insert, says Sarah Clark-Lynn, an FDA spokeswoman.
"These additional reserve supplies of Tamiflu 75-milligram capsules are not outdated," she says. "Only some information included in the labeling is older."
The older labeling does not have dosing information for children aged 2 weeks to less than 1 year, for instance.
The FDA just granted the approval of Tamiflu OS for younger children in December.
Both children's and adults' Tamiflu is $101.50 a package, Iannuccillo says. On average, the co-pay for insured people is $35, she says.
"The vast majority of insurance plans cover Tamiflu, including Medicare and Medicaid," she says. The company also offers a $10 co-pay coupon on its web site, she says.