Well that appears to be the take home message after the latest meeting of the NDPSC.
The National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee (NDPSC) determines what “poison” schedule a medication is to be classified in. If a medication is in Schedule 4 it is available only on prescription and will have “Prescription Only Medicine” on the packaging.
Oseltamivir is one of the drugs being stockpiled around the world in case of an influenza pandemic. This drug is used to treat both human and avian influenza. It needs to be taken preferably within six hours of developing symptoms and no later than 48 hours of the initial symptoms for it to be effective.
A recent meeting determined that Tamiflu (oseltamivir) was to remain prescription only.
If the medication was made available through pharmacy on a “test and treat” basis the medication could be supplied in a timely manner and prevent severe illness or worse, without burdening the health system further. This is the opinion of Dr Graeme Laver – former professor of biochemistry & molecular biology at the Australian National University. Dr Laver has been arguing for ‘Tamiflu’ to be more easily available to prevent an epidemic from occurring.
The reasoning of the NDPSC to keep this medication prescription only included a possible reduction in influenza vaccination rates. let me say that again. The committee which supposedly looks at scientific evidence thought that oseltamivir being available through pharmacies may potentially decrease vaccination rates.. Good science that.
However, having oseltamivir available through pharmacies right now would ensure training and familiarisation with protocols rather than the alternative, which seems to be to throw us in the deep end should an epidemic/pandemic arrive in Australia.
The influenza vaccine is only about 70% effective but this does increase with regular yearly injections. However even the testing for this can vary between 6 to 720 fold depending on where and what test is used.
The influenza vaccine approved for use this year contains three new strains. Sanofi Pasteur in a press release in the USA called this “unprecedented“. Each year there are warnings on the tele to try and increase the number of vaccinations, but in the last couple of years it appears the virulence is increasing, with some children in Western Australia dying last year from influenza.
What this decision really means is that patients are more likely not to be treated effectively within 48 hours in areas where there is a scarcity of medical practitioners and hospital resources.
But then after bashing my head against a brick wall about rural health issues I am beginning to think we don’t count.
Here’s a little more at Lab Tests Online AU
Oh – and do get the “flu needle”