HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, January 7, 2005

Medicare to Cover Flu Meds

Scouring the web for something interesting to write about on a Friday afternoon, I came accross this article about how Medicare plans to offer antiviral drugs to flu sufferers on a trial basis.  I know very little about these medicines except for the fact that their effectiveness is far from proven.

However, reading the article made me think back to all the ridiculous hand-wringing that went on this past fall when it was revealed that there would be a severe shortage of flu vaccines in this country.  This was going to be a disasterous flu season, according to many, due primarily to the lack of the vaccine.  Well, I've never been too convinced that flu shots do anything at all, simply because influenza comes in many different forms and it's impossible to predict what kind of flu will eventually rear its head come flu season.  Additionally, some people claim that you can actually get the flu from the shot, but this theory has been debunked.

However, and I'll admit that my memory is only a little bit better than the media's, I have to wonder why a year in which such few shots were given is also a year in which there's been virtually no flu outbreaks.  This has to be one of the lightest flu years in recent memory.  Are we just lucky, or is the Juice Guy on to something?


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No, neither of you are on to anything (but maybe you're on something?). I'm not sure where you get the idea that the efficacy of the four antivirals are "far from proven" but that is not the case. They have been shown effective and in the absence of a vaccine will likely be the only thing in our armamentarium.

As for the handwringing, I think it made a great deal of sense. Influenza A kills close to 40,000 people a year in this country. So handwringing about the lack of a vaccine makes as much sense as would concern over the lack of materials to manufacture seat belts. Motor vehicle accidents kill about the same number of people and seat belts are effective against mortality in an car accident.

Flu activity varies from year to year. H3N2 strains usually peak in late January. We may or may not have a bad time of it this year. Activity in the northeast is now increasing. I hope we do get off easy--but if we do, it won't be because the feds blew it by depending on only two sources of vaccine, one of which went down the toilet.

So next time you need something to write about, why not try law.

Posted by: revere | Jan 8, 2005 5:16:55 PM

i agree

Posted by: John | Jan 15, 2005 12:08:08 PM

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