Flu: Drugs stockpile an option for rich countries, not poor

Feb 02, 2011

Stockpiling antiviral drugs as a weapon against pandemic flu saves lives but, when measured as a tool for averting economic damage, is an option only open to rich countries, a study published on Wednesday said.

Researchers in Singapore compared benefits and disadvantages from stockpiling such as and in Brazil, Britain, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Zimbabwe.

They built a based on the spread of a novel virus in Britain in the 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009 pandemics.

It factored in expectations of fatalities and sickness as well as direct costs such as medical bills and indirect costs such as job absenteeism.

Stockpiling drugs saved lives in all countries, but its benefit, in economic terms, varied greatly.

For rich countries, it made sense to have a stockpile covering 15 percent of the population -- or, more realistically, 25-30 percent of the population, once inefficient distribution or waste are taken into account.

For the United States, according to the computer simulation, antiviral stockpiles saved the economy 27-55 billion dollars over 30 years.

But for two-thirds of the world's countries, antiviral stockpiles are not cost-effective at current prices, as slender resources spent on the drugs could be used more productively in other health areas.

Among the countries studied, stockpiling would be cost-effective in China, India and Indonesia if antivirals fell below two dollars per course. But even at this price it would still be too dear for Zimbabwe, and by extension, other very poor countries, says the study.

The paper appears in a British publication, Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

are not a cure. Doctors say they can reduce the severity and duration of sickness provided they are administered at an early stage of infection.

Explore further: The Homeless World Cup isn't immune to Ebola fear-mongering

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers warn: 'Antivirals might be wasted on the elderly'

Jul 28, 2009

A model of influenza transmission and treatment suggests that, if the current swine flu pandemic behaves like the 1918 flu, antiviral treatment should be reserved for the young. Researchers writing in the open access journal ...

Outwitting mutating flu during a pandemic

May 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a global influenza pandemic, small stockpiles of a secondary flu medication - if used early in local outbreaks - could extend the effectiveness of primary drug stockpiles, according to research made available ...

Critics: WHO slow on generics for swine flu

May 11, 2009

(AP) -- As poor countries face a possible swine flu pandemic with only enough Tamiflu to treat a tiny fraction of their populations, some experts are calling for a simple but contentious solution: massive production of generics.

Recommended for you

Sri Lanka celebrates two years without malaria

3 hours ago

Sri Lanka has not reported a local case of malaria since October 2012, according to the Sri Lankan Anti-Malarial Campaign. If it can remain malaria-free for one more year, the country will be eligible to apply to the World ...

Poll: Many doubt hospitals can handle Ebola

7 hours ago

A new poll finds most Americans have some confidence that the U.S. health care system will prevent Ebola from spreading in this country, but they're not so sure their local hospital can safely handle a patient.

Number of Ebola cases nears 10,000

7 hours ago

The number of people with Ebola is set to hit 10,000 in West Africa, the World Health Organization said, as the scramble to find a cure gathered pace.

User comments : 0