Flu season may be coming to a close but you could run into trouble if your child comes down with the virus. A local shortage of flu medicine is leaving parents with few options.
Tamiflu is the only prescription drug that gets rid of the flu within 48 hours of onset. Columbus kids, however, have been having a hard time getting hold of the medicine.
Call any pharmacy in Columbus and the answer is the same. There is no liquid children's Tamiflu. Flu season would normally be dying down in March, but the widespread epidemic has made the demand much higher than the supply.
Walgreens pharmacist Mark Anderson says, "The problem tends to be that Tamiflu in the liquid form comes in a suspended powder that has to be mixed when the prescription is presented at the pharmacy. It has a very short shelf life, so typically it's very hard to get in large amounts of that because it has such a small window, so what we're having to do is go out to different warehouses and try to get different supplies of it from different places."
The only other form of the medicine for kids is a capsule, which has a higher dose than small children need and won't do any good for the ones who can't swallow pills.
Anderson says they have ordered more of the children's liquid, but with the worse than normal flu season there's no telling when the shortage could be over.
"We're working with different warehouses trying to get that in for smaller children," he says, "but often times the only alternative is to either work with a doctor to get them changed to a capsule form for the child or try to compound it and make it specifically for the child."
The compound is a mixture of syrup and crushed pills that pharmacists can make, and few local pharmacies have suspension machines that do the mixing. The catch is that the medication is only effective if taken within two days of catching the flu.
"Unfortunately," says Anderson, "there's not too much other than just riding it out, and always the best defense is a good offense, and that's making sure you get your flu shot before flu season begins."
As the flu is passed amongst kids at school, make sure everyone in your family is washing their hands regularly. You should see a doctor at the first signs of flu symptoms.
Anderson predicts this year's flu season will extend into May.