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: Hong Kong raises bird flu alert level as woman critical

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

Four die of bird flu in Libya: minister

53 minutes ago

Four people have died of bird flu in Libya in recent days, the health minister of the country's internationally recognised government said on Saturday.

Ebola expert calls for European anti-virus 'corps'

Dec 26, 2014

Europe will be "vulnerable" if it does not regard viruses as a "national security issue" like the United States, the microbiologist who discovered Ebola said in an interview published Friday.

In Liberia, Ebola steals Christmas

Dec 26, 2014

The Ebola epidemic has cast a dark shadow over Christmas this year in Liberia, where small businesses are especially feeling the pinch.

Firm recalls caramel apples amid listeria fears

Dec 25, 2014

A Missouri firm is recalling its Happy Apple brand caramel apples because of the potential that they could be contaminated with listeria. The recall comes after at least three deaths and at least 29 illnesses in 10 states ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.