FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Flu levels in Arkansas are “very high”, according to the Arkansas Department of Health. With a rise in flu cases, comes an increased demand for flu medications.
According to Julie Stewart, a pharmacist at Medical Arts Pharmacy, it’s getting difficult for her store to keep the medications in stock, specifically for children. Stewart’s pharmacy is having to get new orders of the liquid Tamiflu for children.
“That one is unavailable with our wholesaler right now. We are able to sort of compound a liquid if needed from the capsules. So, we can adjust to that,” said Stewart.
Stewart’s pharmacy has to look at multiple wholesalers to find the children’s liquid Tamiflu. Some kids can’t swallow pills or have a hard time swallowing pills, so having a liquid form of the medicine to take is important.
Caul Corbell is a pharmacist at Live + Well Pharmacy in Fayetteville. He said he’s been hearing from patients who have to go to multiple pharmacies to find the Tamiflu.
“I got a phone call from a young woman yesterday [Wednesday] evening, she said she had already tried five or six pharmacies and had not been able to track it down. Fortunately, we still had a couple of boxes on the shelf,” said Corbell.
While Corbell is confident in his supply now, he’s worried about what will happen as flu cases continue to rise.
“We’ve ramped up our ordering to really stock up in case our wholesalers are unable to get it and we maybe are unable to access it for a couple of weeks. So that we can bridge the gap and make sure everyone gets their medications,” said Corbell.
Still, Corbell is holding onto hope that stock of flu medication will return to normal soon.
“Historically, across all types of medications, what I’ve seen, shortages usually don’t last that long. Usually it’s a couple of weeks to a month and then the market can kind of rebound,” said Corbell.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Marti Sharkey, the Fayetteville City Health Officer, said flu cases were relatively low. Now that people have stopped social distancing and dropped masks, other illnesses are spreading more rapidly again.
“The state of Arkansas is in a very high level of influenza cases, especially for this time of year, the highest level of flu cases that we’ve seen since 2016, I believe,” said Sharkey.
The flu positivity rate in Northwest Arkansas is 10-15%. Sharkey said those are high percentages of the flu virus for this time of year.
Dr. Gary Berner with Community Clinic said the flu is the most prevalent virus going around right now. He’s also been hearing from pharmacies who are running tight on flu medication supply.
According to Berner, the best thing you can do to protect yourself and others is to get the flu shot.
“There will be folks that still get the flu, but it’s about the reduction of that severe illness, instead of being out of work for over a week,” said Berner.
According to Berner, many people who get the flu may not need Tamiflu. The medication is only effective if taken within the first few days of symptoms. There are other things that can be done to ease flu symptoms and speed up recovery, besides flu medications.
“Hydration, for those congestive symptoms- using humidifiers and taking a hot shower, as long as it is safe for you- ibuprofen. Then your typical over the counter medicines to reduce congestion,” said Berner.
Sharkey said this is only the beginning of the flu season. She reiterated the importance of getting a flu shot before the holiday season, especially with Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away. The flu shot also takes approximately two weeks to start doing its job.
“You’re less likely to be as ill and you’re less likely to need to reach out to your primary care provider for the Tamiflu,” said Sharkey.
Stewart said another shortage right now is in amoxicillin. Strep throat is going around Northwest Arkansas, and it’s creating a shortage of the antibiotic.
“Especially the liquid form for kids. That is a problem, for sure. A lot of pharmacies are struggling to get supply for that,” said Stewart.
According to the Pat Walker Health System at the University of Arkansas, the flu positivity rate as of Thursday was 13%. Two weeks ago, it was 8%.