No more Tamiflu for French pharmacies

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Pharmaceutical giant Roche France stresses it is not out of stock but is reserving the medicine for hospitals and health authorities.

PARIS – Pharmaceutical giant Roche stopped delivering the flu remedy Tamiflu to French high street pharmacies Thursday, after panic over the swine flu outbreak saw it disappearing off the shelves.

"We're not out of stock," Roche France said in a statement. "It is our responsibility to reserve Tamiflu for hospitals and health authorities.

"In order to allow rapid distribution to hospitals so that any suspected cases can be treated, Roche has decided today to suspend Tamiflu deliveries to shops and wholesalers," the company explained.

Tamiflu is one of the medicines recognised by the World Health Organisation as effective in treating the new strain of the A/H1N1 swine flu virus that has spread across the world from a recent outbreak in Mexico.

Worried French consumers have been buying up the drug for fear the virus will infect their families, even though health experts advise that this is a needless precaution in a country with adequate public health facilities.

Meanwhile, the French military's pharmaceutical unit is ready to produce more anti-influenza drugs to boost its existing stocks if asked to do so by the health ministry, officials said Thursday.

"We are able... to resume production of these pills within a very short time frame," the chief medical officer of the army's health service Anne Robert told reporters.

The pills that would be produced to help contain a potential swine flu pandemic would contain antiviral Oseltamivir, the active ingredient in the popular flu remedy Tamiflu.

Robert said the French defence ministry had already built up a stock of 60 million anti-flu pills in 2006 and 2007.

AFP / Expatica

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