Stockpiling flu remedies shown to dramatically reduce death tolls

A recent Singapore study found that stockpiling flu remedies reduced death rates significantly but that most nations - around two thirds of the world's population - can't build up stockpiles at current prices.

Alex Cook of the National University of Singapore developed an "epidemic-economic" model that would analyze total death rates and antiviral stockpiling cost for countries that included China, Indonesia, Singapore, the United States, Brazil,  Guatemala, India, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Reuters reports.

"The main difficulty is the cost, not just of the drugs themselves but of maintaining the stockpile and then deploying it," Cook said, according to Reuters.

The study showed that stockpiling drugs would save lives in all the countries but that only the wealthiest countries were likely to find the strategy cost effective. It also found that for optimal protection, flu drug stockpiles needed to cover close to 25 percent of the population.

During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, actual stockpile levels ranged from one percent of China's population to 30 percent in the United States to 80 percent in Britain, Reuters reports.

"Our findings used to prepare for future pandemics without over stockpiling costly antivirals or cutting the supply of other countries," Luis Carrasco, another researcher on the project, said, according to Reuters.

The researchers said that cheaper, generic antivirals would make stockpiling cost effective for larger populations like China but that Zimbabwe and similarly poor countries would still not able to afford to stockpile without impacting other health spending areas.