Pharmacies to get anti-H1N1 drugs

Health Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said yesterday that pharmacies would be permitted to carry antiviral drugs for preventing infection with swine flu but said there would be strict controls as to who can issue the drug and who can receive it. The decision to allow pharmacies, and also certain doctors, to administer antiviral drugs was precipitated by the recent increase in cases of people who have contracted the H1N1 virus in Greece, the head of the ministry’s operations center, Panagiotis Efstathiou, told Kathi-merini. Following talks with members of a specialist committee of scientists overseeing the government’s response to the spread of swine flu, Avramopoulos announced that the antiviral drugs would be available in pharmacies in the next few days. There were no details given about who would be eligible for the drugs. According to sources, the same controls are to be exercised over the administering of a vaccine for pneumococcus, a virus that causes pneumonia and meningitis in children. Vaccines for the pneumococcus jab flew off pharmacy shelves in the first few weeks after swine flu arrived in Greece. The government said last week that it would order enough vaccines for the H1N1 virus to inoculate the country’s entire population, including illegal immigrants, once the drug has been approve by international health authorities in the fall. In a related development yesterday, Justice Minister Nikos Dendias heralded a series of measures aimed at averting the spread of swine flu in the country’s mostly overcrowded jails. To date, there have been no cases of inmates contracting the H1N1 virus but there are fears that if this does occur, the virus will spread quickly. Health and safety standards are to be improved, Dendias said, adding that measures will also be taken to stop visitors from «importing» the virus.