Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said yesterday that the Cabinet would budget NT$664 million (US$20 million) to purchase 900,000 doses of the flu drug Relenza as a temporary replacement for Tamiflu, which is regarded as the most efficient treatment for A(H1N1) influenza.
“Tamiflu” is the brand name commonly used to describe oseltamivar phosphate.
“While we are still waiting for Tamiflu from local manufacturers, we need something available for medical personnel and those who are more prone to infection,” Yeh said at a press conference held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday afternoon.
Yeh said that “Relenza” — the brand name commonly used to describe zanamivir for inhalation — could be prescribed to A(H1N1) influenza patients that begin to show resistance to Tamiflu.
Yeh’s remarks referred to recent reports that resistance had been identified in Japan, Hong Kong and Denmark.
The minister said the DOH possessed 2.2 million doses of Tamiflu and 69,000 doses of Relenza. The department is purchasing 10 tonnes of shikimic acid to produce 1.5 million to 1.7 million doses of Tamiflu, he said.
As for vaccines, Yeh said the DOH has purchased 2.3 million doses, including 400,000 regular flu vaccines doses for children. For A(H1N1), the DOH is planning to purchase at least 2.5 million doses before local manufacturers begin production.
“At the moment, one dose for A(H1N1) can cost as much as NT$430. I will see what we can do,” Yeh said.
Meanwhile, the CDC will hold a second bid for the purchase of 5 million doses of flu vaccine on Friday after the first round failed to meet budget expectations.
The only bid was about 8 percent higher than the maximum price set by the agency, but lower than the previous offer.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CNA