August 18, 2005

Doctors from Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia have expressed concern that Western countries will get the majority of vaccines and other drugs needed to fight a potential avian flu pandemic. They have warned that the failure to provide adequate protection for health workers in the region, who will be in the front-line in the event of a possible avian flu outbreak, will not only place great strain on local healthcare systems but could also affect measures to contain the spread of the disease.

The UK is one of many countries stockpiling anti-viral influenza drug Tamiflu (oseltamavir), having recently ordered sufficient supplies of the medicine to treat a quarter of its population. A study by US government researchers has shown the drug to be effective in suppressing the H5NI avian flu virus in mice. Meanwhile, Germany has ordered 1.7mn doses of influenza treatment Relenza (zanamivir). Other Western countries amassing stockpiles of these medicines include France, New Zealand and Norway.