HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A Tamiflu shortage three years ago nearly caused pharmaceutical manufacturers to reach outside U.S. patents for non-domestic versions of the name brand flu drug.
This year, north Alabama doctors and pharmacists alike are reporting high numbers of flu patients. Many say finding flu remedies has been frustrating due to high demand and diminishing supply.
"In the past week we've seen at least 12 new cases, at least," said Michelle Solari, a pharmacy technician with Pharmacy First. "I know a doctor came in over the weekend -- he had to send six people to the hospital."
Spot shortages of the liquid form of the antiviral medicine are forcing mothers and fathers to drive from pharmacy to pharmacy, often late into the evening after getting a diagnosis and prescription. The first place they often run? Big chain pharmacies. Surprisingly, though, many mom and pop stores say the franchises just don't stockpile Tamiflu as much.
"We've been stocking up since August, so we have plenty of it, but some pharmacies didn't prepare for it as much," said Solari.
Solari works at Pharmacy First on Whitesburg Drive in Huntsville.
And while pharmacists say early is better, shops like Pharmacy First still offer flu shots. They say many people have become complacent about this precaution, despite early season warnings.
"Because we've had so many flu shots the past couple of years, people don't think much about it anymore, but we really haven't been giving as many," said Solari.
So if you want to avoid the quest for Tamiflu altogether, medical experts say it's not too late to take precautions.
Doctors say there are still a few months left in the flu season, so it's still a good idea to get protected.
Pharmacy First in Huntsville is currently offering flu shots for just $10.
By the way, the situation has improved at Westminster Christian Academy, which closed last Thursday and Friday due to a high number of absences from the flu. Here's the update.