Non-availability of swine flu medicines risking lives: DAK

SRINAGAR: Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Wednesday expressed concern over non-availability of swine flu medicines at chemist shops and hospitals in Kashmir.
President DAK and flu expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan in a statement said lack of medicines to treat swine flu is putting lives of patients at serious risk.
“While the drug department had asked pharmacies to maintain adequate stock of Oseltamivir and Zanamivir, two key drugs for swine flu, they are not available in the market,” he said.
Dr Hassan said in order to have better access to these medicines, the Health Ministry has placed them under schedule H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, which means all drug stores can sell them. However, the retailers have to sell them against a prescription, he said.
“Earlier, these drugs belonged to schedule X category that required a special license to stock them. One of the main reasons of chemists not keeping these drugs available is lack of awareness about this directive,” he added.
“Shockingly, swine flu medicines are not even available at hospitals. Although SKIMS and SMHS hospitals have a limited stock of oseltamivir tablets for adults, no liquid for pediatric use is available,” the DAK president said. “There is no inhalational Zanamavir available which in certain situations is life-saving.”
“With the recent government panel recommendations against mass vaccination which will leave many people unprotected, antiviral drugs have become an important line of defence against flu,” he said.
“Studies have shown that swine flu drugs if given early prevent risk of flu complications and death. Clinicians should prescribe them as soon as possible and should not wait for lab test results which could be fatal,” he advised.
“As the swine flu virus has undergone a change, it is likely to infect more people. The mutated virus is behaving unusually as it is causing deaths in young and healthier people,” Dr Nisar cautioned.
Swine flu has killed 1,714 people this year, six times the deaths recorded last year, with 34,009 cases reported across India so far.