U.S. prescriptions for Tamiflu, Relenza and two other antiviral drugs used in the fight against pandemic H1N1 influenza totaled 587,960 in the week ending Oct. 30, a 5.9% increase from the week before, according to Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions of Bridgewater, N.J. The number of prescriptions for the drugs filled in California during the week rose 2.2% to 15,048, according to the company. Nearly 98% of the prescriptions were for Tamiflu.
Wolters Kluwer provides information on prescriptions for the antivirals to the Food and Drug Administration to help that agency track progress of the flu. The company independently generated data about the prescriptions for The Times using a tool called Pharmaceutical Audit Suite.
There were 5,880 prescriptions filled in Los Angeles/Long Beach/Santa Ana during the week, an 8.5% increase from the week before; 1,873 filled in San Diego/Carlsbad/San Marcos, a 28.5% increase; and 1,135 in Riverside/San Bernardino/Ontario, a 2% decline. The rest of the state had much smaller numbers of prescriptions filled, and declines were common.
In other swine flu news:
-- Asia will get its own stockpile of 500,000 courses of Tamiflu and Relenza by next April to help with shortages, a Japanese donor agency said today. The Japan Trust Fund will underwrite the $18-million stockpile, which will be held in Singapore and funneled to other countries as needed. That stockpile seems likely to be too late for the current flu season, however.
-- Researchers at Ohio State University have put together another way to monitor how swine flu has been moving around the world. It can be seen here. The map uses genetic data from the swine flu virus to track how infections have moved from country to country.
-- The debate continues over whether exposure to previous seasonal flu viruses or vaccination against them provides some protection against swine flu. Two papers last week reached diametrically opposite conclusions. A new report Monday from the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology comes down on the side of protection, although the amount of protection is not clear. In a study that was based in part on theory and in part on laboratory work, vaccine expert Alessandro Sette and his colleagues looked at the markers on the surface of seasonal flu viruses for the best 20 years and compared them to swine flu. They reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that there are enough similarities that T cells produced by the body against those markers should also recognize swine flu markers. Recognition of the swine flu virus by T cells would not prevent an infection, but it "may make the infection less severe," said co-author Bjoern Peters.
"This may explain why the pandemic has not been as severe as expected," said Alison Deckhut-Augustine of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded the research.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II