Nightly News   |  October 29, 2009

Tamiflu shortage forces some to be creative

Oct. 29: There’s a new shortage on the swine flu front, and as NBC’s Robert Bazell reports, it’s prompted to a surprising recommendation. NBC’s Robert Bazell reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

DAVID GREGORY reporting: Good evening, Brian . Thank you. We begin with news about swine flu and yet another new challenge for parents whose kids do get sick. As our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell explains, there's a new shortage that is forcing some pharmacists and even some parents to be creative.

Dr. LAURA POPPER: You know what I need to know? What are you going to do for Halloween ?

ROBERT BAZELL reporting: Pediatrician Laura Popper is using more of the antiviral drug Tamiflu to treat flu in her New York practice.

Dr. POPPER: Yay! We found that the duration of the illness is cut very short if you do it within the first 12 hours.

BAZELL: Other pediatricians are doing the same. And now there are spot shortages of the liquid form of Tamiflu for children. But there are plenty of Tamiflu capsules for adults.

Mr. CHARLES TABOUCHIRANI (Cherry's Pharmacy Owner): Let's order 24 of each.

BAZELL: To fill the needs, specialty compounding pharmacies like Cherry 's in New York , mix the contents of adult doses with syrup for kids.

Mr. TABOUCHIRANI: Practitioners should specify the dosage in milligrams because the concentration of the compounded version is slightly different than the manufactured version.

BAZELL: Despite such complications, a CDC official said today that parents at home could open Tamiflu capsules and mix the contents with syrup, but only when they are carefully following doctors' instructions.

Dr. ANNE SCHUCHAT (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): We do not want parents to have to become pharmacists. You've got a full-time job being a parent.

BAZELL: CDC officials admit that their messages about when to use the antiviral drugs have been changing and are, quote, "tricky." Most patients don't need them, but some do as quickly as possible. The FDA today posted the Tamiflu compounding formula on its Web site for pharmacists, because as long as vaccine is in short supply...

Dr. POPPER: Yay!

BAZELL: ...the antiviral drugs remain a very important tool in fighting the flu. Robert Bazell , NBC News , New York .