June 10, 2008 - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) June 3 released two draft guidance documents for businesses on the stockpiling and use of antiviral medications as part of pandemic flu planning.
The two guidance documents, “Proposed Considerations for Antiviral Drug Stockpiling by Employers in Preparation for an Influenza Pandemic” and “Proposed Guidance on Antiviral Drug Use During an Influenza Pandemic,” were developed by an interagency working group including members from HHS, the Homeland Security Department, the Department of Labor, public health organizations and state/local health departments
The purpose of the guidance is help employers (both public and private sector) with informed planning and implementation decisions on antiviral drug stockpiling for pandemic influenza. If drugs are stockpiled, the guidance is designed to assure the drugs are maintained and used optimally.
The federal government encourages companies to consider stockpiling antivirals for use during an influenza pandemic as part of a comprehensive approach.
Private stockpiles, in coordination with public health stockpiles, would extend protection more broadly than could be achieved through the public sector alone. The documents also state these extra stockpiles will improve the ability to achieve the national pandemic response goals of mitigating disease, suffering, and death, and minimizing impacts on the economy and functioning of society.
The World Health Organization (WHO) May 6, health officials warned that not only is pandemic flu still a threat, but the risk of a pandemic is probably growing as the H5N1 virus continues to spread and become entrenched in bird populations in more countries.
“The threat (of a pandemic) has by no means receded, and we would be very unwise to let down our guard, or slacken our preparedness measures,” said Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO. “As with climate change, all countries will be affected, though in a far more rapid and sweeping way.”
Institute of Medicine (IOM) report issued in April said the U.S. government will need to expand its stockpile of antivirals if the goal is to treat all patients and also provide preventive treatment. The federal government has established a goal of acquiring 81 million treatment courses of antivirals in federal and state stockpiles, but the report states that in a pandemic, it may take more than twice that amount to treat sick patients and offer preventive doses to people at risk for exposure on the job.
“The media buzz has died down, but the bird flu virus has not,” said Michael Leavitt, secretary of HHS, in a March 17 statement. “The federal government cannot mount an effective response to the threats we face as a nation without partners at every level of government and throughout society.”
For more information: www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/panflureport5.html