Pill combos may stretch supply of flu vaccine

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Philadelphia-based Hemispherx Biopharma says its experimental drug Ampligen, when mixed with Tamiflu, could help ease the shortage of the Roche antiviral.
Hemispherx chief executive William Carter told CNN/Money that creating an Ampligen-Tamiflu blend could either triple the strength of Tamiflu to a single patient or give three times as many patients access to the antiviral without losing potency.
Ampligen (dsRNA) has not been clinically tested to help combat avian flu but recently completed Phase III testing in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. The report comes
as global demand for Tamiflu is far outstripping supply, with anxiety over a potential bird flu pandemic mounting.
Hemispherx's Carter is not the only one who believes he has found a way to stretch existing antiviral supply. Experts said probenecid, a generic pill for treating gout, also may increase the strength of Tamiflu if they are taken together. The journal Nature reported Tuesday that, in
a 2002 study, Roche scientists showed that Tamiflu concentrations in patients' blood were far higher when combined with probenecid, because probenecid blocks the excretion in urine of Tamiflu's active ingredient. While health officials cautioned that more study is needed before any recommendations can be made based on the data, some doctorshave said probenecid could help cut the cost of stockpiling Tamiflu.
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