Pharmacies, clinics run out of Influenza A medicine as demand spikes

Among the items on demand during the current flu outbreak are face masks and lozenges.

PETALING JAYA: Major pharmacies and private clinics in the country have run out of stock for Tamiflu, an antiviral medication used to treat and prevent influenza A, since December.

A pharmacist told FMT that the flu outbreak started in early December and the demand for Tamiflu had been increasing.

Checks by FMT at three major pharmacies — AA Pharmacy, Big Pharmacy and Caring Pharmacy — confirmed that Tamiflu had been sold out at all their outlets.

Private clinics also reported a higher demand for the flu vaccine. It costs about RM100 per shot.

“Not everyone who gets the flu and sore throat is positive for Influenza A. It all depends on your body’s immune system. Sometimes, it is just the common cold.

“However, if you have a persistent fever of more than 39 degrees Celsius for more than five days, then you should go for a blood test,” said a pharmacist who refused to be named.

Over-the-counter medication for common flu and cough syrups have also been flying off the shelves over the past few weeks.

Most retailers are also stocking up on face masks to cater to rising demand.

The prices for the face masks ranges from RM1 per piece to RM25 per box, depending on their grades.

Other products that are in demand to counter the flu symptoms are throat lozenges, menthol balm and inhalers such as Vicks VapoRub and VapoInhaler.

A person can get infected through droplets from coughs or when someone sneezes or by touching an infected surface.

According to a source, fresh supplies of Tamiflu are only expected to arrive at the end of this month or early February.

Recently, Healthy Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said applications for permits by private health facilities to import Tamiflu from other countries have increased since December.