No more free anti-flu kits for states

Tamiflu to be supplied free of cost to treat the dreaded disease

Close on the heels of Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s sharp criticism that the  states are not taking the H1N1 crisis seriously, the Health Ministry officials said from now on the states should buy at least some of the items required to fight the dreaded virus.

The states will now have to buy personal protective kits, N-95 respirator masks, sample collection kits and transport medium for samples, sources told Deccan Herald. However, Tamiflu will be supplied free of cost to states.

Azad, on his part, asked the ministers concerned to make “urgent arrangements” to procure enough stock of kits.

If short of funds, states could utilise the money allocated under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to buy the items, officials explained.

Side effects

The Centre is set to issue fresh guidelines on the possible side effects of Tamiflu so that the medicine is administered judiciously.  A limited scientific study reported in the journal Eurosurveillance last month found that Tamiflu could trigger side effects like nausea, insomnia and nightmares. It may also set off neuro-psychiatric problems like poor concentration, sleep disorders, inability to think clearly and confusion.

Officials said the cost of the Indian vaccine—as and when it is ready—may be around Rs 300 per dose.

But it will not be available to all due to low production capacity. The government will prioritise the supply of the vaccine, and healthcare professionals will be one of the priorities.

Three Indian companies—Serum Institute of India (SII), Panacea Biotech and Bharat Biotech—are manufacturing the vaccine.

SII is ahead in the race. The Pune-based company may start immunogenicity studies by August and animal toxicity tests by November. Panacea Biotech  will commence animal studies by February-March, 2010.

The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has finalised the animal model for toxicity studies, whereas a fourth company, Cadila, has expressed interest in manufacturing the vaccine.
The states were advised to discourage the use of rapid detection kits for influenza due to its unreliable results. On Thursday, similar advice came from WHO experts who said the sensitivity of rapid tests was less than 60 per cent.

The state governments were also reminded of the need to deploy rapid response teams, besides training healthcare professionals at the district level and sensitising private medical practitioners.

More cases

There is a spurt in the number of H1N1 cases with the virus hitting the young. Bangalore is one among the most affected.

The  toll has risen to 48. Maharashtra leads the count with 27 deaths followed by Karnataka (11) and Gujarat (5). As many as 138 new cases were reported on Friday, out of which only three have travel history. The H1N1 positive cases now stand at 2,539.

DH News Service

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