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: New analysis questions use of acute hemodialysis treatment

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

New analysis questions use of acute hemodialysis treatment

5 minutes ago

A common approach to treating kidney failure by removing waste products from the blood did not improve survival chances for people who suddenly developed the condition, in an analysis led by experts at the University of Pittsburgh ...

WHO: West Africa Ebola death toll rises to 1,350

16 minutes ago

Security forces acting on the president's orders used scrap wood and barbed wire to seal off 50,000 people inside their crowded slum Wednesday in an attempt to contain the Ebola outbreak, which has killed ...

User comments : 0