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News Release

January 8, 2013
For immediate release

Government of Canada to address temporary shortage of flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu)

Tamiflu is a drug used to treat the flu; it is not a vaccine.

OTTAWA – The Government of Canada is working with Roche Canada and the provincial and territorial health authorities to address a potential temporary shortage of the antiviral flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada are arranging to immediately release a supply of the drug Tamiflu from the Agency's National Emergency Stockpile System to the manufacturer for distribution to where it is needed across Canada. This exceptional action will be taken to ensure Tamiflu remains available to those Canadians who need it until the manufacturer replenishes its supply with a new shipment expected in February.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada will continue to work with the manufacturer and with provincial and territorial health authorities to help ensure the demand for antiviral drugs continues to be met this flu season.

Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that is primarily used for the early treatment of individuals infected with the influenza virus – particularly those at high risk of complications due to influenza, such as the elderly, young children, individuals with other medical conditions or pregnant women. Tamiflu can also be prescribed to help reduce the chance of getting the flu following close contact with an infected individual. Tamiflu should not be confused with the seasonal influenza vaccine (flu shot), which remains the best protection against the influenza virus.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is seeing an early spike in flu cases and more severe illness caused by the flu than was seen in the last two years. This year, the flu shot matches the circulating influenza strains very well and therefore offers excellent protection from the virus. Canadians are reminded to get the flu shot to protect themselves and their loved ones. It is not too late to get the flu shot.

It is also important to take the following steps to protect yourself and your family from infection during flu season:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand.  If you use a tissue, dispose of it as soon as possible and wash your hands.
  • Keep doing what you normally do, but if you get sick, stay home.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Keep common surface areas – for example, doorknobs, light switches, telephones and keyboards – clean and disinfected.
  • Eat healthy foods and stay physically active to keep your immune system strong.

Learn more by getting a copy of Fight Flu: Your Seasonal Flu Guide by contacting
1 800 O-Canada or visiting www.fightflu.ca.

Media Inquiries:
Health Canada
(613) 957-2983

Public Inquiries:
(613) 957-2991
1-866 225-0709