Pharmacies running low on flu drugs

Cal Oaks Pharmacy in Pasadena can't keep up with prescriptions for the anti viral drug Tamiflu. Pharmacists say many of their customers are in a frenzy.

"As soon as we told them it's not available they just started panicking," said Minah Park, pharmacist.

Empty spaces on shelves mark where Tamiflu, face masks and hand sanitizers used to be stocked.

Hospitals say many patients are turning up in the ER concerned they have the swine flu.

Many patients are begging their doctors for Tamiflu in the event the virus hits close to home.

"You've got to take it early. So at the first sign of the flu you have to take it," said Dr. Jeffrey Galpin, an infectious disease expert.

The drug must be taken right at the onset of symptoms. Dr. Galpin says Tamiflu interferes with the reproduction of the flu virus in the body. It inhibits an enzyme that blocks the viral replication.

Tamiflu can be especially helpful in people with compromised immune systems. But the drug does have side effects that are similar to some of the flu symptoms themselves. Those include: nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Some people even report headaches.

But that doesn't stop people from wanting the drug. Dr. Galpin says Tamiflu only offers partial immunity while a person is taking it. If it's overused, he says it's possible the drug will become ineffective.

Pharmacist Minah Park says she understands her customers' fears of her customers, she's just not sure all this dispensing of Tamiflu is really necessary at this point.

"Psychologically its going to make people feel better -- whatever works," said Park.

Some doctors are advising their patients who have diseases that compromise their immune system, to have Tamiflu on hand. However, experts say people without those conditions are also trying to stockpile this drugs. Some are even taking the drug before they get sick.



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