The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would make additional doses of the prescription flu drug Tamiflu available from the Strategic National Stockpile so states can respond to the sharp, early rise in flu cases this year.
flu season has hit particularly hard this year, although it may be peaking in some parts of the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were at least 15 million illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations, and 9,300 deaths from flu this year.
This sharp increase has led to increased demand for over-the-counter drugs as well as for the antiviral Tamiflu in parts of the country, although the Food and Drug Administration has not officially classified the drug as a deficient product. Tamiflu may be prescribed to treat the flu in people over 2 weeks of age.
Flu season is generally between October and May and peaks in December and January. This year, however, it arrived at least six weeks too early as the disease was more severe. Hospital stays were high in all age groups, but the highest rates were among adults aged 65 and over and children aged 4 years and younger.
Influenza hasn’t been a serious problem in the past two years as people have taken precautionary measures against COVID-19, such as masking and physical distancing. But a large majority of the country has left these protective measures behind, and as more and more people enter the house in the colder months, the virus is taking its toll.
“Today, we are taking action so that all countries can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season. Government stocks can be used, and when jurisdictions need access to strategic national stocks, they now have them to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak,” Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Welfare, said in a statement.
The HHS Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response will work with relevant agencies to review all requests for Tamiflu under the Strategic National Stockpile.
Jurisdictions can surrender certain batches of Tamiflu purchased between 2006 and 2009 for pandemic preparedness. Although they were originally intended for a pandemic, they can be used during the current flu season, according to HHS.
Jurisdictions that have exhausted their own stocks of Tamiflu may request additional doses from the national stockpile. The product is part of the federal stockpile of antiviral drugs, which is stored for pandemic preparedness, according to HHS.
This development comes against the background of a sharp increase in RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) infections, which overcrowded children’s hospitals. In the meantime, coronavirus cases are also increasing.