Ships struggle to stock Tamiflu for crews as H1N1 virus spreads

The following is the text of a press release issued by Hutton & Co.:
(HULL, U.K.) — Supplies of Tamiflu are in short supply as ship owners and managers rush to stock up in the wake of escalating cases of Swine Flu, warns leading UK ship
supplier Hutton’s.

Ship owners trying to protect their ships and crews from a damaging and
potentially dangerous on-board outbreak of Swine Flu are finding it hard to
source limited supplies of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu and, when they do get
hold of it, are finding prices hugely inflated, says Hutton’s Medical
General Manager John MacDonald.

“There is a UK-wide problem with obtaining stocks of Tamiflu at present
because of the quantity being stockpiled by the Government, and stocks in
Europe are dwindling too,” he explains. “There are stocks of Tamiflu which
date back to the Bird Flu outbreak two years ago but they are being sold at
high prices and have sell-by dates which expire next year.”

Huttons is currently experiencing more than double the usual number of
requests for Tamiflu although many enquirers baulk when they discover how
expensive the drug has become due to the Swine Flu outbreak, says Mr

Crew health is an increasingly important issue in modern shipping, points
out Mr MacDonald. “When you have several thousand tonnes of vessel carrying
who knows what you don’t want to risk that coming to grief in the middle of
the ocean because the crew is incapacitated,” he says. In addition, modern
comforts such as air-conditioning on ships make it easier for viruses to
spread once on board.

He continued: “Although it is not mandatory, larger companies have already
done their own risk analysis and decided they need a plan to deal with a flu
pandemic. Now smaller companies are starting to follow suit and encountering
this supply problem.

“It’s not the first time Huttons have seen this situation,” he adds. “Some
of the highly priced specialised medical products manufactured by large
pharmaceutical companies are difficult for shipping companies to get hold
of. That’s where we come in because we can do all the leg work for them and
source the products – although, in reality, I don’t think it should be this

By Professional Mariner Staff