Dying for Tamiflu

Yesterday, I wrote about Chloe Lindsey, a 14 year old girl from Fort Worth, Texas who died of the new H1N1 virus. One of the reasons she died was because schools were kept open, despite the fact that it was known that this would result in rapid spread of the virus among children and inevitable deaths.

But this is not the only reason she died.

There are two medicines, Tamiflu and Relenza, which, if taken early enough, greatly reduce the ability of flu viruses to replicate. Treatment with Tamiflu can prevent death from the new H1N1. If you can get it in time.

Chloe Lindsey did not.

From WFAA.com September 29, 2009

Chloe’s symptoms began with a fever Wednesday. By Friday, Osborne said a visit with a Fort Worth doctor confirmed her 14-year-old daughter had the flu, possibly the swine flu.

But, Chloe went home from the doctor’s visit without Tamiflu, the medication that can ease the flu’s severity.

“They were advised by the CDC to not give Tamiflu to people that were normally healthy,” Osborne said. “So, they wouldn’t treat her.”

When Chloe’s fever got worse Friday night, Osborne called the after hours phone line at he doctor’s office and was told to keep watching her.

“Saturday she felt really bad,” she said. “She couldn’t eat or drink or take the medicine.”

It only got worse from there.

“She took a deep breath, it wasn’t very deep, and I could hear crackling in there,” Osborne said. “I said, ‘That’s it; I’m going to the hospital.”

By sunrise Sunday, Chloe was at the hospital.

“Everybody just looked at her and just started running around like crazy,” Osborne said.

By sunset, Chloe was gone.

“I was scared for them to put her to sleep because I was afraid she would never wake up and she didn’t, she didn’t,” Osborne said through tears.

She said she doesn’t blame the doctor, but does question the guidelines that originally ruled out Tamiflu for her daughter.

Dr. Donald Murphey, the director of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s Medical Center, said it is an unfortunate case of short supply.

“We want to do everything we can for every single kid every day,” he said. “It’s very difficult when resources are stretched and we have to try to balance what’s available.”

Why are supplies low?

Is it because we didn’t know a flu pandemic would occur?

No, we knew.

Is it because we didn’t know Tamiflu would be helpful?

No, we knew.

We don’t have enough because the government decided not to buy enough.

I wrote this blog, back in April 2007:

What’s on the Menu for Treatment of H5N1? Not Tamiflu if You Live in the Florida.

… if Tamiflu is the only antiviral on the pandemic flu treatment menu, why isn’t the US stockpiling sufficient supplies for its population? Perhaps this particular menu item is just too expensive. Tamiflu costs about $110 per course of treatment, retail. The US government is prepared to provide 44 million doses to the states for free and to subsidize the purchase of another 33 million doses of Tamiflu. The government will pick up 25% of the cost (CIDRAP).

Of course, if the States choose not to buy any Tamiflu, then their citizens are out of luck. For example, the residents of the sunshine state better hope an H5N1 pandemic decides to skip Florida (Florida Ignores Federal Help For Flu, The Ledger, March 23, 2007).

Last week the federal government sent a letter to Florida’s Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness, warning it faced a Friday deadline to purchase $36.7-million worth of discounted antiviral drugs to develop a state stockpile.

Gov. Charlie Crist has put that money in his Department of Health budget request and considers it essential, said Health Department spokeswoman Wendy Riemann.

But the chairman of the House committee in charge of that budget said the five-year shelf life of the drugs leaves him skeptical. “It just doesn’t rank as one of my priorities,” Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach said last week.

I wonder if having enough Tamiflu is one of Representative Bean’s priorities today?

In Texas, and throughout the country, some Tamiflu is available. But it is only given out under certain conditions. Conditions which prevented Chloe Lindsey from receiving this life-saving medicine. This tragedy was not necessary. Uncaring and short-sighted politicians created this disaster.

What should a concerned parent do?

Here is Chloe’s mother’s advice.

From CBS News.com, September 30, 2009:

Through tears, Tammy said, “The reason we decided to do this (the interview) and what we think is most important for people to know, even in our time of pain, is that I knew Chloe was sick, and even thought the doctor said she was gonna be OK, and they didn’t give her the medicine (Tamiflu, which the Osbornes say wasn’t administered until Chloe had taken a severe turn for the worse), I knew she was really sick. And I would have been more demanding in her treatment, and been more of an advocate for her than I was.

“And I think it’s important to let people know that, even though we’re taught all our lives to trust our doctors, and I do trust my doctor, that nobody knows my child better than me, and that, when I knew something wasn’t right, I should have gone and made somebody do something.”

Parents, trust your instincts. No-one cares more about your children than you do.


2 thoughts on “Dying for Tamiflu

  1. Your blog posts keep coming back in my head all day, after I read them. I found your piece from yesterday (The economics of death), suggesting another way to spend the $37 billion dollars, particularly brilliant.

    As the pandemic rolls on, your posts get more and more intense. I’ll keep my box of Kleenex close at hand (not because of swine flu…, but because your words will have brought tears to my eyes).

    [You’re awesome! I told you before, and I will repeat it again…]

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