Flu medicine for children is in short supply in some parts of the country. Many pharmacies can make up an alternative when needed - but parents may need to ask for it.
The medicine, Tamiflu, is a prescription drug that directly attacks the flu virus and can lessen the duration and severity of the flu in adults, children and infants. It may also help protect people exposed to someone with the flu from getting sick. It should be taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.
Adults can take Tamiflu capsules, but because most children can't easily swallow pills - especially when they're sick - they are given the drug in liquid form.
It's the liquid form that's in short supply "due to recent increased demand," said Sarah Clark-Lynn, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration.
"We are seeing intermittent shortages at some stores in some areas," CVS Pharmacy spokesman Mike DeAngelis said from the company's Woonsocket, R.I., headquarters. "It's a combination of the fact that the supplier has had an issue with getting enough liquid Tamiflu in the market and the demand caused by the early influenza season."
The FDA is monitoring the situation "and will post information on our website. "We are also working with the company to increase supplies," FDA spokeswoman Sarah Clark-Lynn said.
Tamiflu is made by Genentech in South San Francisco.
"If a particular CVS pharmacy does not have the liquid in stock and is not able to get it from a nearby store, our pharmacists can compound the capsules, which are still in ample supple, into the liquid form," DeAngelis said.
There's no connection between the process of making a liquid suspension of Tamiflu and the problems associated with the New England Compounding Pharmacy and tainted steroid injections that caused meningitis last year.
Compounding liquid Tamiflu is simple. "Basically, the capsules are emptied out and the contents combined with Ora-Sweet to make a liquid suspension," DeAngelis said. Ora-Sweet is a thick, sweet syrup used as a base for many liquid children's medicines.
Canada has released a supply of liquid Tamiflu from its National Emergency Stockpile to address a potential shortage.
Shortages of liquid Tamiflu also occurred in 2011 and during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009.