Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Influenza in the US

Walgreens, the largest U.S. drugstore chain in the United States, currently has 7,670 stores  throughout the country.  Today, the chain announced that it will be increasing supplies of liquid Tamiflu.

Liquid Tamiflu is administered to children, where as the Tamiflu capsules are more often prescribed to adults.  The CDC made a statement in mid-February that the influenza activity was “elevated” and active in 44 US states.  Walgreens noticed a shortage in the liquid Tamiflu, but had sufficient supplies for the capsule form. 

Along with this message from Bloomberg Businessweek, an article from the Monterey Herlad urged its citizens to get flu vaccinations.  Influenza is believed to move from east to west and a vaccination can still be considered effective and useful.

I personally have never gotten a flu vaccine, but will most likely do so next year for two main reasons: the public health emphasis that this class has had and my recent illness.  Turns out I didn’t have flu, but the flu-like symptoms I did have were excruciatingly miserable.   Vaccines are a form of technology, so if we have it we should try to use it to its best advantage.

Interestingly, I didn't fill my Tamiflu prescription because my lab results came back negative for influenza virus.  However, I chose to ask the pharmacist how much it would cost if a patient were uninsured and the cost was about $20/pill and the usual dosage is 5 pills.  This is a drug of convenience that the lower classes of social economic status would not be able to afford.  But, this seems to be the case with much of the US health system.  Tamiflu is prescribed in the first couple days symptoms begin to reduce the time it takes to clear the virus from the body. It is a neuraminidase inhibitor, which prevents new viral particles from being released by infected cells.


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