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Pharmacists struggle to stock Tamiflu in Central Virginia

Posted at 12:46 PM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 15:36:12-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Pharmacists in Metro Richmond struggled to stock the antiviral medication Tamiflu amidst a deadly flu season.

Jenni Helmke, a pharmacist at Bremo Pharmacy on Staples Mill Road in Henrico, said it's hard to remember an influenza strain this strong in her eight years of working in the pharmacy.

"This is one of the worst we've seen," Helmke said. "I've never see this be as much of a problem where people who have gotten vaccinated come back and say, 'I've gotten the flu.'"

As a result, pediatricians and doctors often look to medication, such as Tamiflu, to help patients fight and lessen flu symptoms.

Helmke said she struggles with her supplier to stock the shelves with Tamiflu because there is such a high demand for the drug across the country.

"We are fortunate enough to have some," she reported. "We've got about 12 doses for the pediatric population and about 10 doses or less for the adults."

However, an employee at Lafeyette Pharmacy near the West End told WTVR CBS 6 their stock of Tamiflu was depleted.

Taylor Robertson, a spokesman for Patient First Medical Center, said, "We are working hard to maintain inventory of Tamiflu at our centers. With the high flu volume we are experiencing it is possible that a center may temporarily run out of Tamiflu. In those cases, we can provide the patient a written prescription to fill at a local pharmacy."

Cities like Washington D.C. and Raleigh both reported a shortage of Tamiflu for patients.

The antiviral medications Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) can reduce the severity of symptoms and the length of illness, but the drug has to be taken within 48 hours of the first appearance of symptoms to be most effective.

Antiviral treatment is recommended mostly for people at a higher risk of flu complications. That would include people younger than 2 or older than 64; those with chronic diseases; patients with suppressed immune systems; and people of Native American or Alaskan Native heritage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts recommend people give themselves 24 hours -- after recovering from the flu -- before returning to their everyday routine.

Have you or someone you know been sick with the flu this year? Weigh in on the WTVR CBS 6 Facebook page.