Saturday, August 15, 2009

Clinics not keen on stocking up Tamiflu

By SHAUN HO and CHEW WAN YING

PETALING JAYA: Private clinics are hesitant to stock up on the A (H1N1) anti-viral drug, Tamiflu, due to its high cost and inconsistent guidelines from the Health Ministry.

According to a survey carried out by The Star among 12 private clinics here, eight did not have the supply and did not intend to place orders with suppliers.

“The Government is inconsistent in giving guidelines regarding the prescription of drugs,” said a doctor in Jalan Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur.

Yesterday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai directed all public and private hospitals to administer immediate treatment to patients with flu-like symptoms and with high fever that persisted for more than 48 hours.

Prescription should be made based on the doctor’s discretion and on a case-by-case basis, said the doctor who did not want to be named.

“If we indeed follow the latest guidelines, the supply will run out soon. It will be harder for us to restock, as there is a limited supply nationwide,” he said.

Most of the nation’s supply had been taken up by government hospitals, said another private medical practitioner in Cheras who wished to remain anonymous.

“The Government is not releasing sufficient quantities of the drug to private hospitals. We are left on our own to source for the drugs.

“On the ground, there is no supply at all for private clinics,” he said.

He added that the Government should focus on preventive measures rather than the cure, as the virus can build up resistance to the drug over time.

“The Government is not making people, especially school and college students, wear masks,” he said.

Another doctor from Bukit Sentosa said that maintaining the standard of hygiene was more important.

He said he had observed a shortage while sourcing the drug for his clinic.

“I have not seen genuine Tamiflu made by Roche in Malaysia. What we have are generic drugs,” he said, adding that he was not adhering strictly to the ministry’s guidelines.

“I only prescribe to confirmed cases.”

Some cited the drug’s high price, ranging between RM140 and RM220 for 10 tablets, as a leading factor in deterring them from purchasing it.

“The loss would be too high to bear if nobody buys the drug,” said Dr Raman Nathan of Klinik Sentosa at Taman Putra Ampang. - The Star.

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