UPDATE 1-Roche says US allows it to tap adult Tamiflu reserves

Thu Jan 17, 2013 5:45pm EST

* Roche says extra Tamiflu supplies will have different packaging

* Says spot shortages of children's liquid Tamiflu to continue

* Safeway, Rite Aid ship additional vaccine to U.S. stores

By Ransdell Pierson

Jan 17 (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG said U.S. regulators will allow it to begin selling the company's reserve stock of adult Tamiflu capsules, and that the extra supplies of the flu treatment should meet U.S. demand for that formulation for the rest of this flu season.

The Swiss drugmaker said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will allow it to sell Tamiflu capsules in different packaging from what is currently available in the United States.

"The medicine from our reserve stock is the same as the medicine that is currently being distributed," and in the same 75 milligram adult dose, said company spokeswoman Tara Iannuccillo.

But Roche's Genentech unit, which makes Tamiflu, said it continues to expect spot shortages of a different liquid formulation used by children because continuing production of it will not meet demand.

The company said pharmacists can create a substitute liquid formulation by dissolving Tamiflu capsules into a sweet liquid.

Tamiflu is used to slow down or stop symptoms of the flu in people that already have been infected with the virus.

Shortages of the treatment come as the United States is experiencing one of the worst influenza epidemics of the past decade.

Health officials have said it is not too late for people to be vaccinated, but many across the country have had difficulty finding available vaccines at doctors' offices and drugstores.

Sanofi SA, the largest flu vaccine provider in the United States, last week said it had sold out of four of the six formulations of its Fluzone seasonal flu vaccine due to the unanticipated late-season demand for vaccines.

Drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp on Thursday said it had obtained more than 400,000 additional doses of seasonal flu shots, which are being delivered to areas of need based on actual or anticipated flu outbreak. The vaccine will be administered by pharmacists in its U.S. drugstores.

Safeway Inc on Wednesday said it had shipped an additional 200,000 does of its vaccine to its U.S. pharmacies to meet high demand. The supermarket chain offered customers who receive the vaccine a coupon for 10 percent off their next grocery purchase.

Forty-seven states are reporting widespread influenza activity, and the nation's capital is also battling the seasonal scourge, which can be spread to others up to six feet away when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.

Dozens of hand sanitizers cropped up this week at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, amidst heated preparations, and intense security, for President Barack Obama's second inauguration on Monday.

With hundreds of thousands of people expected to jam the city - particularly at crowded inaugural balls - health officials warned those who attend to wash their hands regularly and consider bringing hand sanitizer. And they had advice both for those who are ill - Stay home - and for those who are not: Get vaccinated, if you have not already done so.

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