HHS calls for employer role in flu drug stockpiling
In an updated guidance document issued this week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) argues that those likely to come into contact with influenza patients should be protected ahead of time to minimise the impact on healthcare services in the event of a seasonal epidemic or pandemic.
The HHS has also said that it is the responsibility of employers to ensure sufficient supplies of antivirals in guidance designed to emphasise the need for “preparedness within both the public and private sectors.”
Craig Vanderwagen, the HHS’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response, said that: “Planning and preparing for a pandemic influenza requires action by every part of society, including individuals and families, communities, and private sector employers as well as all levels of government.”
Dr Vanderwagen explained that: “Businesses should have a plan in place for responding immediately at the first sign a pandemic to be sure the business can protect the health of the workforce and continue to operate,” adding that “employers may want to consider stockpiling antiviral drugs as one part of that plan.”
The HHS reiterated its position that antivirals are the best approach to slowing the spread of influenza and said that at present the US National stockpile is sufficient to treat 72m people, less than a third of the population.
While efforts to boost the production of antivirals are ongoing through use of cell culture based systems rather than hens eggs, Tamiflu which is made by Roche and Gilead Sciences dominates the global stockpiling effort.