Germans snapping up Tamiflu in bird flu panic

14th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

14 October 2005, BRUSSELS - The demand for the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu has boomed in Germany as a result of widespread concern over bird flu, pharmacies report.

14 October 2005

BRUSSELS - The demand for the anti-influenza drug Tamiflu has boomed in Germany as a result of widespread concern over bird flu, pharmacies report.

Germans have been swamping doctors' offices in attempts to get prescriptions for the prescription-only drug. Tamiflu has been recommended by the WHO and the European Union to treat possible infections.

"The demand was extremely high in recent weeks," Christiane Eckert-Lill of German national pharmacy association ABDA said in remarks quoted by Deutsche Welle. 79,000 packages of Tamiflu were sold in August alone, she said, up from a mere 900 packages in the same period in 2004.

The share price of Tamiflu manufacturer, Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, has risen to an all time high since the news that bird flu has been detected in Romania.

Meanshile European Union governments remained on full alert on Friday following the discovery of bird flu in neighbouring Turkey and Romania.

The European Commission rushed veterinary experts to both countries and E.U. foreign ministers are to meet next week to discuss plans for a global fund to help other countries hit by the disease.

As top E.U. veterinary experts continued day-long emergency talks in Brussels, the commission said it was responding to requests for help from Romania and Turkey.

"We have offered all assistance possible," said European Commission spokesman Philip Tod.  

Tod confirmed that further tests on samples from Romania to confirm the presence of the H5N1 virus - which can be transmitted to humans - had been delayed due to customs procedures which apply to the transport of "dangerous materials".

The samples are now expected to arrive at the E.U. reference laboratory in Britain on Friday with results expected by Saturday afternoon.

E.U. assistance had also been requested by Bulgaria, which fears contamination from neighbouring Turkey and Romania, and experts will be dispatched there, Tod said.

Meanwhile, a meeting of E.U. foreign ministers in Luxembourg on October 18 will study plans to set up an international fund to help countries in south-east Asia which have been grappling with bird flu for several months.

"There will be a discussion on international coordination," said Tod.

Meanwhile, E.U. veterinary experts met Friday to discuss precautionary action to prevent the spread of bird flu to the 25- nation bloc.

The meeting was called in the wake of the discovery earlier this week of an outbreak of bird flu in a backyard farm in Romania and confirmation that the H5N1 virus strain had been found in Turkey.

Officials said E.U. vets would approve commission proposals on preventive measures, including a requirement that E.U. members reduce the risk of contact between wild birds and poultry flocks in high risk areas such as wetlands or other areas frequented by migratory birds.

"Each member state will define which areas are at risk and apply the necessary measures to separate wild birds from poultry," the proposal read, adding that where necessary, this could include keeping poultry indoors in high risk areas.

The commission said it was not recommending a ban on hunting but people were asked to advise authorities if they discovered any wild birds which appeared to have died under "abnormal conditions".

The E.U. executive said it must be informed on the way that national governments apply the preventive measures.

Scientists fear the bird flu virus could mutate and lead to a human pandemic. The H5N1 strain does not easily infect humans, but 117 people in Asia, mostly poultry farmers, have caught it over the past two years.

E.U. Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou has proposed to set aside EUR 1 billion to help make and distribute anti-viral drugs and vaccines in case of a pandemic.

Kyprianou is also suggesting that governments start stock-piling anti-virals, saying they are the best defence against such a pandemic.

Meanwhile U.S. Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice and French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on Friday called for transparency by governments in the global fight against the spread of bird flu.

"There has got to be total transparency," Rice told journalists in Paris after talks with Douste-Blazy. "The world cannot be caught unawares."

The French foreign minister agreed, and added that developed countries must be prepared to help the less developed deal with the problem.

"The problem is the eventual mutation of the virus, so that it can be passed from person to person," said Douste-Blazy, who is a physician by profession.

"If we do not want it to mutate, me must do everything we can to prevent it from mutating," he said. "We must be present in the poorest countries, where it could mutate."

Copyright DPA with Expatica

Subject: German news, EU news, bird flu

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