The number of influenza cases in 2023 has risen fivefold when compared to last year's monthly averages and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now warning against buying artificial influenza antiviral pills labelled oseltamivir that have been smuggled into the country.
From January to September of this year, the number of influenza cases were higher than the same period last year, Dr Thira Woratanarat from Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine said on his Facebook page yesterday.
There were fewer than 20,000 cases of influenza in January this year but by September, that number had risen to 100,000 cases. There were only 20,000 influenza cases in September of last year. Dr Thira said that, compared to the same period in 2022, the number of influenza cases in January increased 5.2 times; in February, 7.6 times; in March, 3.5 times; in April, 3.8 times; in May, 5.3 times; in June 6.9 times; in July, 7.2 times; in August 6.4 times and in September, 5.1 times.
Recently, Public Health Minister Cholnan Srikaew announced the variants of influenza -- A H1N1, A H3N2 and B viruses -- that are widespread in Thailand. The Public Health Ministry is also extending the age range of child vaccination -- currently at six months to two years old -- up to five years old as well.
Meanwhile, artificial antiviral medication labelled oseltamivir is gaining popularity in the North. Complaints filed with the ministry indicated that locals believe the ministry is facing an oseltamivir shortage, which has caused panic buying.
Dr Narong Aphikulvanich, acting secretary-general of the FDA, said oseltamivir is in stock and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization is pushing its production of oseltamivir (30g and 45g) to distribute to every region. He said the artificial oseltamivir sold in the North was smuggled into the country. The FDA will take legal action against the culprits, he said.
The oseltamivir medications listed in Thailand are Tamiflu 75g, GPO A-Flu 30g, 35g, and 75g. Oseltamivir is a controlled substance available only at hospitals. Patients should be prescribed oseltamivir before they use it and they should not buy it from pharmacies or on other platforms, he said.