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Dubai: UAE residents looking to buy Oseltamivir, better known by the brand name Tamiflu, the medicine used to manage influenza symptoms, claim they are uanble to get it as local pharmacies are citing a shortage.

However, distributors of the medicine have assured that they have received fresh stocks which are being readied for distribution across all pharmacies.

A spokesperson from City Pharmacy, the offical distributor of the medicine, said Tamiflu is currently available only in the pill form. The oral suspension, usually administered to kids, is not available.

The demand for Tamiflu, used both for prevention and treatment of influenza, usually spikes in the winter months with the rise in influenza cases, involving symptoms of fever, cough, cold and stuffy nose. The medicine is considered effective in keeping the illness at bay, although it is not a replacement for a flu vaccine which is strongly reccomended by doctors.

A trip to Dubai pharmacies, including some Life, Super Care, Aster and Medcare outlets, revealed that there are currently no stocks of the medicine. Pharmacy spokespersons confirmed that the shortage was from the supplier side. In pharmacies attached to hospitals such as Prime, Thumbay in Ajman and the RAK Hospital, Tamiflu pills were available in limited supply and were being reserved for the use of inpatients.

A spokesperson of one of the pharmacies said: “We just have limited supply for emergencies at our own hospital and currently the medicine is not for sale for members of the public. This year, owing to a very high level of awareness of influenza, people have been taking high preventive doses. The demand for the medicine has far outstripped the supply.”

A Ministry of Health and Prevention spokesperson said that the temporary shortage was due to a glitch in distribution and that the pills were avilable.

The City Pharmacy spokesperson said they had received a fresh consignment of the pills at their warehouse and would be distributing them across all pharmacies in a couple of days.

With the oral suspension unavailable, a pharmacist attached to a hospital in Dubai said children too can be given pills in dosages that are adjusted according to their weight. “In situations like this where oral suspension is unavailable, doctors tweak the dosage of the pill according to the age and weight of the child.”