It’s interesting to see on Stuff that the government has had to dispose of a large percentage of expired Tamiflu. Was the bird-flu epidemic just a media beat-up? Did the drug companies add to the frenzy and oversell this wonder drug to the New Zealand government?

I have no doubt that there was a genuine fear of the Avian Bird Flu, but there seems no reason why the concern has diminished other than the media has lost interest in it.

Roche knew a year ago that they had an over supply of Tamiflu in New Zealand, and that it was due to expire. They went so far as to gain approval to sell Tamiflu as a non-prescription pharmacy-only medicine. Public could ‘take the test’ on www.haveigotflu.co.nz to determine if they had the flu (the common garden variety) and if they met the requirements they could print out their self diagnosis, take it to a pharmacy, and get some Tamiflu to cure it. It was not widely known that Tamiflu combats ALL flu types, not just the bird flu strain.

I don’t have any evidence as to how much Tamiflu was disposed of via this campaign, but I do know that the website was very popluar. [I project managed the design and build of it].

To gain this approval from the government suggests there was a recognition last year that the drug would be expiring and everyone, government included, would be left with a full medicine cabinet.

So, is bird flu less popular now as a world-wide epidemic? Perhaps global warming, interest rates, typhoons and earthquakes have overtaken this perceived threat. Do a search on the NZ Herald website for ‘tamiflu’ and you’ll see 106 stories on the drug and bird flu in general. Just scanning over the headlines makes for interesting reading.

And check out this site for the cumulative deaths as a result of Avian Bird Flu up to April 10, 2008. Worldwide it’s a minute number.

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