Stockpiling Flu Drugs, Vaccines Reduces Impact Of Pandemic, But Option Out Of Reach For Most Countries, Study Finds

“Stockpiling antiviral flu drugs and vaccines saves lives and reduces disease in a flu pandemic,” but the cost to maintain such a stockpile and deploy interventions in the event of an outbreak “is too expensive for around two thirds of the world’s population, scientists said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.

To assess the costs associated with such efforts, researchers from the National University of Singapore and Duke University Medical Center created “‘epidemic-economic [computer] model’ [that] analy[zed] total death rates and costs of antiviral stockpiling for Brazil, China, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe,” Reuters writes. The researchers “based the model on experiences of previous flu pandemics in 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009, and factored in expectations of death rates, disease, direct costs like medical bills and hospital time, as well as indirect costs such the cost of large numbers of people being off sick from work,” according to the news service. Reuters reports that the authors published their findings in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface (2/2).

“From a global perspective and from the perspective of well-resourced countries, they argue it makes good clinical, ethical and economic sense for resource-limited countries to be able to stockpile antiviral medications,” according to a National University of Singapore press release. “The authors noted that lower cost, generic antivirals would act as a game changer: making stockpiling effective for countries with large populations, like China, India and Indonesia. Zimbabwe and countries with its profile, however, would not have cost-effective stockpiling, even with generic antiviral medications” (2/1).

The researchers also “looked at a wide range of potential stockpile sizes, and found that to ensure the best protection, flu drug stockpiles would need to cover around 25 percent of the population,” Reuters continues. “These results were in sharp contrast with stockpile levels during the 2009 H1N1 [swine] flu pandemic, the researchers said, which ranged from 1 percent of China’s population, through 30 percent in the United States, to 80 percent in Britain,” the news service reports (2/2).

According to the press release: “The authors conclude that international cooperation and a global network of generic national antiviral stockpiles could provide a way to avoid substantial economic impacts and fatalities in the event of another influenza pandemic” (2/1). “Our findings can … be used to prepare for future pandemics without over stockpiling costly antivirals or cutting the supply of other countries,” Luis Carrasco of the National University of Singapore, who led the study, said, according to Reuters (2/2).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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