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Health officials in New Zealand claim pharmacists across the country have been left with thousands of unclaimed doses of the influenza drug Tamiflu® (oseltamivir).
The majority of doses were ordered in 2005 by people who feared that the country could be hit by a bird flu pandemic.
But now, according to Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand president Steve Wise, the fear of such a pandemic has “disappeared off the radar” and the drugs have not been collected.
However, Christchurch virologist Dr Lance Jennings said people should not ignore the danger of bird flu.
“It remains a threat,” he said, adding that two people died from the disease in Indonesia last week.
The virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed at least 204 people worldwide since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
While the disease remains difficult for people to contract, specialists fear it could mutate into a form that could spread easily, sparking a pandemic that could kill millions.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health’s national co-ordinator of emergency planning, Steve Brazier, said his government had stockpiled 1.2 million doses of Tamiflu, which is made by Swiss company Roche, with expiry dates ranging from 2011 to 2013.
He said there was still a risk of an influenza pandemic, and the ministry was planning on the basis of “when, not if” one occurred.
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