PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A spike in flu cases has many people searching for Tamiflu. However, it may be hard to find the drug due to a nationwide shortage.
Nicolette Mathey is keeping busy with prescriptions for Tamiflu flooding her Pharmacy in Palm Harbor, and for good reason.
"If I had the flu I would rather have it for one or two days rather than four or five," said Nicolette Mathey, the owner of Palm Harbor Pharmacy.
Doctors say it can help lessen the severity of symptoms if you get the flu.
Mathey says the generic liquid form of Tamiflu is back ordered at many pharmacies, which is why they are coming up with an alternative.
"Children especially need a smaller dose," Mathey said, holding up a box of generic 75 mg capsules. "We can open these capsules up and put it in a liquid and get these children smaller doses based on their weight."
Pharmacists call it "compounding." They take the powder out of the capsule and put it into a liquid. From there, they sell it at a fraction of the price.
Mathey says name brand Tamiflu is available, but one prescription can cost you a couple hundred dollars, depending on your insurance.
"We’re charging right at cost because I know, I have three kids," said Mathey. "I wouldn’t be able to put out that kind of money in cash. So per child, it's about $100, $150."
Mathey says compounds are not covered by insurance.
Pharmacies and hospitals do compounding for many reasons. If a patient is allergic to a certain dye, they can take it out. Or they can combine certain medications into one capsule depending on a patient's specific needs.
Doctors at local hospitals say compounding is a pretty common practice, especially when there is a shortage of a certain type of drug. Doctors do warn that dosage sizes need to be very precise for children.
"It’s a very tightly regulated industry," said Mathey. "We have to keep very strict records of everything we do, lot numbers, expiration dates, all of the powders we're using, all of the invoices of who we are ordering from."
Mathey says if you are ever unsure, ask the compounding pharmacy about their accreditation and inspection information. She says they are very proficient compounding standards and that the process is very safe if you are going through a licensed pharmacist in the State of Florida.