The study indicates that, despite cautions to the contrary, media coverage about a possible bird flu
pandemic was followed by hoarding of the antiviral medication Tamiflu (Oseltamivir).
The research reveals that the number of prescriptions filled for Tamiflu jumped more than 300 percent from 2004 to 2005 during the fall months when there was little or no influenza activity in the United States. Tamiflu prescriptions filled during September and October rose to 133.6 per 100,000 insured Medco enrollees in 2005, up from 27.3 prescriptions per 100,000 enrollees during that same time period in 2004.
When extrapolated to the US population, this amounts to 305,000 more Tamiflu prescriptions filled in 2005 than would have been expected based on 2004 prescribing rates.
Since Tamiflu is recommended for use within 48 hours after flu symptoms appear and virtually no cases of the illness had been reported during this time period, it is likely that the medication was not prescribed to treat the flu, but stockpiled by patients over fears of a possible bird flu outbreak.
The rise in Tamiflu prescriptions also corresponded closely to increased media coverage of avian flu. The investigation also revealed that older, more experienced physicians, regardless of specialty, prescribed more Tamiflu than younger, more recently trained physicians.