California Allocates $53 Million for Anti-Bird Flu Medication

The federal government will partially subsidize the cost of the antivirals purchased by states. To date, California to date is one of only 13 states to order the medications, which will be partially subsidized by the Federal Government.

"Through a combination of state purchases and federal stockpiling, California will have access to enough antivirals to treat 25% of California's population — the number of people anticipated to become infected in a pandemic," said Betsey Lyman, deputy director of Public Health Emergency Preparedness for the California Department of Health Services.

According to state health officials, California will spend $53 million to procure 3.7 million courses at the 25% federal discount. A course is the number of doses needed to treat one person. It has also purchased another 68,000 courses at the full price of $1.5 million.

The total will ensure that 10% of Californians have access to antivirals. The state is also entitled to more than 5 million courses in the national stockpile, paid for by the federal government. Combined, the state will have enough antivirals to treat roughly 25% of its population during a pandemic.

Some healthcare professions disagree with California's approach, arguing that an antiviral created today would work in the future. Some states turned down Washington's discounted antivirals because of fears that the virus would mutate, making today's treatments ineffective. Arizona and Colorado are two states that didn't invest in the antivirals offered by the government for fear that they may not work.

The antivirals used to treat the symptoms of influenza include Tamiflu and Relenza, although government stockpiles will contain mostly Tamiflu. Both medications reduce influenza symptoms and lower the risk of transmission. But there is no vaccine that protects humans against the bird flu virus. The changeability of the virus may also reduce the effectiveness of the antivirals.

Both antivirals have a five-year shelf life, say representatives for the drugs' manufacturers, Roche and GlaxoSmithKline.

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