Tamiflu shortage hits Brooklyn during height of flu season
With a major flu epidemic upon us, many Brooklyn residents are now faced with the prospect of not being able to find the right flu medication at their neighborhood pharmacy.
There is currently a shortage of Tamiflu in Brooklyn, and children’s liquid Tamiflu is only sporadically available at most locations.
Pharmacy Manager Michael Rucci at Rite Aid at 9302 Third Ave. in Bay Ridge said that the scarcity of Tamiflu is not just limited to Brooklyn but rather a nationwide matter.
“The liquid Tamiflu is not available due to the nationwide shortage, especially on the west coast where the flu epidemic is severe. So it’s really hit or miss around here. Sometimes you are able to get a bottle, sometimes you’re not. And people have been asking for it.”
This is especially frustrating for parents whose children have come down with the flu. This past week, 6-year-old Emily Muth from Cary, North Carolina, was diagnosed with the flu and died three days later. Thirty children have died so far this flu season compared to 10 child deaths this time last year.
Pharmacist Maria Georgakopoulos at Bay Ridge’s Bridge Pharmacy, located at 8912 Third Ave., is also concerned about the lack of medication available.
“People have been constantly requesting the flu medication,” Georgakopoulos said.
While generic Tamiflu capsules can still be found, the children’s liquid formula is nearly impossible to locate. “It’s been about two weeks that we haven’t been able to get it,” she said.
“So, basically, it’s a concern for the children. We’re having a hard time locating a pharmacy that still has some in stock. When we call the manufacturer they say that it should be available this week. But with the outbreak, it’s scary. It’s a problem when the kids can’t get what they need right away. It’s high risk.”
Georgakopoulos said that her pharmacy tried to secure a supply of the medication before the outbreak. “We tried two weeks before it all started to get ahead of the game and stock up … When we would go to order it, it just wasn’t there.”
According to the New York State Department of Health, everyone aged 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine every year. And it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
“Everybody should get a flu shot,” Rucci said. “They say it’s not 100 percent effective — only 30 to 40 percent — but 30 to 40 percent is better than not having any protection at all.”
When asked if there was an end in sight to the Tamiflu shortage, Rucci said, “It’s hard to say. There’s only one manufacturer who is making it, so they just can’t keep up with the demand. In fact, there’s a backorder for the product which the manufacturer simply cannot supply.”
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