JANUARY 01, 2006

Leaders of the profession called on the nation's pharmacists to discourage consumers from stockpiling supplies of Tamiflu—a practice they said may create a serious threat of shortages during the coming influenza season.

Reports that consumers are hoarding quantities of the drug in anticipation of a possible outbreak of avian flu make it important for pharmacists and physicians "to address the problem to help assure that the correct medication is available at the right time," the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) said.

"Stockpiling to protect against an as-yet-undefined threat creates its own real danger—that the antiviral products will not be available to mitigate the real threat of this season's influenza," APhA told pharmacists. For its part, the association urged its members to "have a contingency plan to access appropriate quantities of medications, vaccines, and supplies to serve patients or be prepared to refer patients to other sources."

In addition to the possibility that Tamiflu hoarding may create shortages during the coming months, the APhA said there are other dangers associated with stockpiling the drug. "Indiscriminate or casual use of antivirals or antibiotics can create drug-resistant strains" that may eventually render these treatments useless, an official from the association reminded pharmacists.