27/07/2009

Tamiflu Prescribed For First Time

An antiviral drug is now being dispensed in NI for the first time.

As more people are falling ill with suspected swine flu, Tamiflu is going to patients who present with symptoms.

Local reports indicate that some Belfast pharmacists had just dispensed their first prescription and that others were also starting to see 'scripts from GPs being presented as well.

Current guidelines were for people who fell ill to stay home, stay warm and consult their doctor by telephone.

If the doctor then felt there was a need, they would then prescribe antivirals, which the pharmacy would then supply.

People with underlying health problems, pregnant women, diabetics, asthmatics, babies and the elderly are considered to be at a higher risk and will probably be given the drugs as a matter of course.

Other cases will be judged on an individual basis but all will be treated free no matter if they normally pay for their prescriptions or not.

The pharmacy is then required to report each prescription supplied to the relevant health board, so it can keep track of stocks of antiviral drugs as well as suspected incidences of the flu.
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However, after initial confusion, potential swine flu sufferers in Northern Ireland are being urged not to use the National Pandemic Flu Service, which is only for people living in England.

Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Elizabeth Mitchell said: "Any person from Northern Ireland who goes to their pharmacy with an authorisation number (from the Flu Service) will not be given antivirals.

"The current numbers of GP consultations in Northern Ireland for flu are still relatively low."

Dr Mitchell said the present arrangements, in which people consult their GP, remained the best and most appropriate way to get treatment to anyone who needs it.

"Northern Ireland will be able to use the National Pandemic Flu Service if the need arises at a later date."

This follows near chaos as the National Pandemic Flu Service site crashed within minutes of launching on Thursday.

The Government later admitted it was having to increase capacity due to demand.

Meanwhile, the total number of swine flu cases in Northern Ireland has now reached 58 but there have been no related deaths.

See: Swine Flu Phone Service Revealed

(BMcC/KMcA)

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