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Pharmacists Use Ancient Tool To Combat Swine Flu

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In pill form, Tamiflu is readily available. But its liquid version, the type used for children too young to swallow a pill, is in short supply.
David Schultz
In pill form, Tamiflu is readily available. But its liquid version, the type used for children too young to swallow a pill, is in short supply.

Tamiflu is an anti-viral drug that treats symptoms of the flu and also can prevent onset of the illness. These days, with the ongoing swine flu outbreak, Tamiflu is hard to come by - especially in its liquid form, the kind given to children too young to swallow pills.

So in the back room of his independent pharmacy in Bethesda, Md., David Posner is making his own through a process called compounding. He's mixing the contents of Tamiflu capsules with fluids using a mortar and pestle, a tool pharmacists have used for centuries.

"Then we'll go ahead and actually run it through a mixture," Posner says, as he takes the milky liquid to his blender.

For Posner, this is what pharmacy is all about. "This is what I went to pharmacy school ... to do, not just to open up a bottle and pour it," he says. "This is the fun part of pharmacy."

Tamiflu's manufacturer is primarily making the drug in pill form, which has led to shortages of the liquid version across the country and in the Washington region.

WAMU contacted a dozen pharmacies in D.C., Maryland and Virginia yesterday. Only one had supplies of liquid Tamiflu in stock, but seven others said they could compound it within in a few hours.

David Schultz reports...

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