Canadian health officials address potential antiviral shortage

The Canadian government recently announced that it is working with Roche Canada to address a potential shortage of the antiviral influenza medication Tamiflu, or oseltamivir.

Ottawa said that the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada have decided to release a reserve supply of Tamiflu from the PHAC's National Emergency Stockpile System. The drug is to then be sent to the manufacturer so that it can then be distributed across the country. The manufacturer is not expected to replenish its own supply until February.

Tamiflu is primarily used for the early treatment of influenza infection, particularly those considered to be at high risk for complications such as the elderly, infants and those with other medical conditions. The medicine can be used to reduce the chance of infection following close contact with an infected individual.

Tamiflu is not the seasonal flu vaccine, which is considered the best protection against the virus.

PHAC said that it has observed an earlier than expected rise in the number of flu cases reported in the country as well as more severe symptoms. The agency said the seasonal vaccine matches the strains in circulation and offers excellent protection.

"Canadians are reminded to get the flu shot to protect themselves and their loved ones," PHAC said. "It is not too late to get the flu shot."