Concerned over the sale of Oseltamivir phosphate or Tamiflu – the only drug that is known to cure A (H1N1) influenza as of now – in the open market and non-availability of masks, Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on Wednesday asked the States to take stringent action against those indulging in malpractices.

Retail sale of Tamiflu is banned but is available free of cost at identified government health facilities where swine flu patients are being treated. It will now also be made available to private health facilities approved for treating such patients.

At an emergency meeting of the State Drug Controllers from across the country convened here, the Ministry drew their attention to the reports regarding the clandestine sale of Tamiflu and disappearance of

protective masks from the market. ``These could be spurious capsules and also involves the issue of price. We have asked the States to carry out raids against those chemists who sell the medicine

illegally,’’ Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare told reporters.

N-95 masks not for general public: Health Secretary Explaining that N-95 masks which had disappeared from the market were not recommended for general public, Mr. Chawdhry said these were only

used by those who are handling swine-flu patients including doctors and para-medical staff. Even those screening passengers at international airports and those on security duty were using normal

three-layered masks, which are cheap and readily available, he said. “Shortages of any kind will not be tolerated. We have asked the States to be more vigilant’’, he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry officials also met the representatives of the pharmaceutical companies manufacturing Tamiflu for procurement of additional 2 crore capsules. ``We worked out a delivery schedule with them to increase our stockpile. Our stock will touch 30 million capsules which will be enough to treat 30 lakh people suffering from this virus,’’ Mr. Chawdhry said. These will have a shelf life of four to five years. The pharma companies have assured of a ``banking stock’’ of 7.2 million capsules with no cost to the government but when procured will have to be paid for.

On being asked whether the Centre was proposing to ban the `Janamashtami’ celebrations later this week, Mr. Chawdhry said it was for the people to decided whether they wanted to go for public gatherings or not because the risk of contracting the disease at crowded places was higher. “We have issued do’s and don’ts, and it is for the people to follow these,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has expressed concern over spread of new types of diseases, including swine flu, across the globe and said the government is leaving no

stone unturned in tackling them.

Keywords: Swine FluA(H1N1)Tamiflu

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