Canada taps Tamiflu stash to help Roche meet demand

Caught unprepared by a wave of illness, Canada is getting into its stash of Tamiflu to handle demand there because maker Roche ($RHHBY) is uncertain that its manufacturing and supply chain can keep up with demand.

The jump in demand left Roche uncertain it would be able to meet demand out of its existing supplies, Dr. Barbara Raymond, director of pandemic preparedness for the Public Health Agency of Canada, told the Ottawa Citizen.

"Given that we are still in the midst of influenza season and given that we certainly do not want to have any kind of supply disruption at this point in time, the Public Health Agency Canada ... has elected to work with Roche to ensure that there will be no supply disruption," Raymond said.

Doctors prescribe the pill--co-developed by Gilead Sciences ($GILD)--to shorten the duration and severity of the flu by keeping the virus from replicating in the body. Tamiflu does not replace the flu vaccine.

Canada, like other countries, maintains a stockpile of the Roche product, in preparation for a pandemic. But authorities in Canada told the Ottawa Citizen that the country's preparedness would not be jeopardized by the move.

Flu this year has come hard and fast, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. has reported. According to The Detroit News, the CDC said 5.6% of doctor visits in the U.S. right now are for influenza, compared with just 2.2% during the peak of the flu season last year.

In December, the FDA extended its approval of Tamiflu for acute, uncomplicated influenza in infants 2 weeks of age and older.

- read the Ottawa Citizen's story
- get more from The Detroit News