Tamiflu supply 'robust,' but Chicago pharmacies facing increased demand

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The maker of Tamiflu said it's not a supply problem but a distribution problem in the cities hardest hit by the flu and unfortunately that includes Chicago. (WLS)

The maker of Tamiflu said it's not a supply problem but a distribution problem in the cities hardest hit by the flu and unfortunately that includes Chicago.

Two trips to the ER in less than 24 hours for the Blackman family. It all started when the kids came home from school on Friday.

"My little son, he was throwing up, my older kids, they was feeling nauseated," said mother Tashalina Blackman.

Next thing you know, Tashalina Blackman, her husband, her 3-year-old, 4-year-old, 7-year-old and 10-year-old were left immobilized by the flu.

"Very scary and very nervous at the situation," said Blackman.

Her kids got so sick Sunday that she brought them to MetroSouth Medical Center's Emergency Room.

They left with prescriptions for the antiviral medicine Tamiflu, but nowhere to fill them.

"No one has the medicine in stock," said Blackman.

Tashalina tried her Walgreens at 95th and Ashland and then a dozen other Walgreens, CVS and Jewel Osco pharmacies nearby.

"We've had this prescription since yesterday and still no answer today," said Blackman.

With no Tamiflu in sight, they ended up back in the ER Monday when her 3-year-old and 4-year-old's symptoms got worse.

A Tamiflu representative said the national supply of Tamiflu is "robust" and the problem is on the distribution side.

"Despite robust supply nationally, from time-to-time, spot shortages may occur in local areas," a spokesperson for Genentech, the maker of Tamiflu, said in a statement.

CVS and Walgreens said that due to a recent spike in flu activity in Chicago, some individual pharmacies were temporarily out-of-stock.

In a statement, a spokesperson for CVS said: "While CVS Pharmacy is not experiencing a widespread shortage of Tamiflu at this time, we are seeing increased demand at our stores nationwide. We're continuing to supply stores with Tamiflu and other flu-related medications using our existing inventory network, but there may be instances when individual pharmacies could be temporarily out-of-stock. We are closely monitoring the situation and are working with suppliers to ensure our patients have access to available vaccine and flu-related medications. We recommend that patients call their local CVS Pharmacy in advance since inventory varies day to day."

Right now both chains recommend that patients call ahead before showing up in person.

Walgreens also confirmed increased demand for the antiviral medication.

"Due to the recent spike in flu activity in the Chicago area, we are experiencing greater demand for antiviral medications used to treat influenza. While we are taking additional measures in an effort to help meet patient demand at this time, some of our pharmacies in the area may not have all versions or strengths of Tamiflu available. We recommend customers call ahead to confirm availability (of Tamiflu),"said a Walgreens representative in a statement.

Meanwhile, Blackman said she's started reaching out to pharmacies far outside her neighborhood in search of some relief.

"If no one has the medicine, it's only going to get worse. They can't get well without the medicine," said Blackman.

Walgreens most recent "flu index" lists Illinois as #17 for flu activity in the country. Chicago is in the top 60 cities for flu activity.
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