Welcome to the Department of Health Care Services Welcome to Medi-Cal Welcome to the Department of Health Care Services

Medi-Cal Logo
Click to Sign Up for MCSS emails

Medications to Treat Influenza

January 16, 2018

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports the influenza season in California began earlier than usual. There are reports of patients being unable to obtain prescriptions for influenza antivirals at their pharmacies. There are also reports that some wholesalers are unable to fulfill orders of antivirals. While local shortages are being reported, there does not appear to be a statewide or nationwide antiviral shortage. CDPH has verified that one manufacturer, Genentech, is reporting the ability to supply oseltamivir to wholesalers and, if necessary, promptly ship product directly to retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies. Pharmacies should consider contacting their wholesaler’s customer service desk to request drop shipments of antivirals from manufacturers if the wholesaler is unable to supply needed antiviral medication in a timely manner. While antiviral drugs work best when treatment is initiated within two days of onset of influenza, clinical benefit, particularly for severely ill patients, has been observed even when treatment is initiated after two days.

Between October 1, 2017, and January 5, 2018, there have been at least 27 deaths in patients under the age of 65. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the severity of this year’s virus is such that all patients may be considered at risk of complications. Drugs used in the treatment of confirmed cases of influenza may be billed without an approved Treatment Authorization Request (TAR) and there are no manufacturer restrictions. Providers are also reminded that Welfare and Institutions Code, Section 14133.37(b) requires dispensing of at least a 72-hour supply of a covered drug in an emergency situation, such as influenza infection.

Information about influenza treatments oseltamivir phosphate and zanamivir can be found in the appropriate Contract Drugs List sections in the Pharmacy provider manual. Information about influenza treatment peramivir can be found in the Injections: Drugs N-R Policy section in the appropriate Part 2 manual.