Stockpiling ‘flu drugs ‘not cost-effective’ for two thirds of countries

02 February 2011

Scientists based at the National University of Singapore have advised that the price of ‘flu drugs such as Tamiflu needs to be reduced in order to make treatment strategies cost-effective in poorer nations.

The research – published in Interface, a journal of the Royal Society – shows that while stockpiling antiviral drugs is a highly effective way to reduce deaths in ‘flu epidemics, the large financial investment required to maintain a reserve of drugs at current pricing means that the strategy is not cost effective for almost two thirds of countries. 

Statisticians used a complex mathematical model to analyse information collected from ‘flu epidemics from 1918 onwards, finding that countries which had maintained a stockpile of ‘flu drugs consistently suffered fewer deaths in epidemics.  However, for less wealthy countries the cost of maintaining a stockpile was so high that despite the decrease in mortality, the strategy wasn’t cost-effective. 

In poorer countries where public health money may be limited this could have severe implications.  As the authors state: “Despite the high number of potential fatalities that could be avoided, stockpiling antivirals in resource-limited countries imply that valuable resources are not allocated to ongoing severe health problems like measles, malaria or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”