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No policy decisions made yet on Tamiflu

No policy decisions made yet on Tamiflu, Ministry of Health says

The policy on the best use of Tamiflu in a pandemic situation has not yet been determined, Director of Public Health Dr Mark Jacobs said today.

The Ministry has been consulting since the end of September with key interest groups on an interim policy discussion document that looks at the National Reserve of Anti-viral Medication in the event of an influenza pandemic. However, no policy decisions have yet been made by the Ministry or Government.

Dr Jacobs said it was important to emphasise that the final policy decisions on Tamiflu would not be made until the exact nature of the pandemic influenza virus had been confirmed and authorities knew which groups would be most affected by the virus.

``As part of our overall planning we've been looking at how we might best be able to use the 855,000 treatment courses we've stockpiled in New Zealand,'' Dr Jacobs said.

``Our current thinking is that we could use Tamiflu to `ringfence' a pandemic influenza outbreak in its early stages. This is during the `Stamp It Out' phase of the draft Influenza Pandemic Action Plan. But under current thinking the great majority of the anti-viral is likely to be used to treat sick people, if the future pandemic spreads within New Zealand.''

The interim discussion document proposes that a small amount of the Tamiflu stockpile -- 10 percent -- be held back for treatment of people who work in the essential services that will respond in a pandemic.

``There are some services that need to be maintained at the highest practical level to help provide direct pandemic responses, services that reduce the impacts of a pandemic on the general population, and emergency services,'' Dr Jacobs said.

``Key groups could include people like those who maintain essential health services, police, defence, key emergency decision-making bodies, border agencies, social support, critical infrastructure and selected non-health residential facilities staff. However, it is important to emphasise that no policy decisions have been made about the broad use of the Tamiflu stockpile, or on which groups may need to have access to a potential reserve of the medicine.

``Version 1 of the interim policy discussion document captures the preliminary thinking regarding potential use of the stockpile. It is likely there will be several future versions as further advice is taken.

NOTE: The Ministry has not released any details of possible groups who may get Tamiflu during a future pandemic because the current draft document (Version 1) is very preliminary and because policy on this is not final. It will not be finalised until the exact nature of the pandemic influenza virus has been confirmed. Tamiflu's possible use for ringfencing in the early stages of a future pandemic, treatment of the broader community and holding back some for treatment of essential services personnel has been publicly discussed for some time.

ENDS

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