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Consumer groups rail against Tamiflu price hi -

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PETER CAVE: Demand for the antiviral drug Tamiflu has escalated and there's evidence that chemists
are cashing in on the pandemic.

There's no recommended retail price for Tamiflu, which is the drug that experts say is most
effective to treat swine flu.

But some chemists are selling it for between $7 and $8 for a single tablet.

Tamiflu sales on the internet are also increasing and consumer groups fear customers are being sold
snake oil.

Di Bain reports.

DI BAIN: In the past 24 hours the number of swine flu cases has increased by almost 10 per cent,
with more than 6,300 cases now confirmed in Australia.

Fear is driving up sales of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which is prescribed by most doctors to be
the best treatment for swine flu.

The Government will cover the cost of Tamiflu if you are diagnosed with the virus.

But if you're looking to take it as a precaution the price can range by more than $20 a course.

Perth based chemist David Maxwell says he charges between $70 and $80 for 10 Tamiflu tablets.

DAVID MAXWELL: If it saves you from having the flu for perhaps half the period of time that we
would expect you to have the flu for, I think the cost is somewhere between $70 and $80. To spend
that, some people consider that to be pretty cheap to get them over the flu twice as fast as what
they would normally be expected to get over the flu with and you know, I know there's been cases of
reported deaths and we are using that for the protection of public health.

Maybe that is relatively cost effective I guess. I guess it depends on an individual's viewpoint
but I certainly wouldn't consider it to be very expensive.

DI BAIN: Drug maker Roche doesn't offer a recommended retail price for Tamiflu.

The Pharmacy Guild indicated in April that the normal price was about $50 a course when it
highlighted customer concerns about prices, but the guild's president Kos Sclavos says most people
can now get it for free if they're sick but he can't tell chemists what to charge for Tamiflu.

KOS SCLAVOS: Obviously the guild, by law, can't engage in recommended prices. We used to but the
ACCC because obviously the vast majority of pharmacists are in the Pharmacy Guild we are not in a
position to put out prices. That leads to inconsistency then frustration by consumers but we can
only follow the law.

DI BAIN: Christopher Zinn from Consumer group Choice says with more people dying from the virus
Chemist's should be monitored to ensure they're not taking advantage of a frightened public.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: Well look, I mean the market in pharmaceuticals is fairly regulated and the fact
there might not be something particularly in Tamiflu is not the direct concern.

The direct concern is that pharmacists are in a privileged position. They enjoy a great deal of
trust from the community. All the surveys show that and really the pharmacists themselves would not
want to see that situation changed and if any were seen to be profiteering from this very serious
public health issue by selling Tamiflu significantly above the odds, that does nothing but erode
that important position of trust so we would hope that the Pharmacy Guild could really take action
and send a strong and clear message to its members to manage this in what for them would be, and in
the consumers interest, the most sensible possible way.

DI BAIN: He says there also needs to be warnings about the sales of Tamiflu over the internet.

CHRISTOPHER ZINN: It would come as no surprise that the internet, while delivering us all sorts of
great opportunities, is also the favoured vector of the snake oil salesman and the fact people
could flog all sorts of things on the net with very little danger of being caught or held to
account or even have to provide a refund should unfortunately come as no surprise.

DI BAIN: Swine flu fears are not only hitting consumers in the hip-pocket; it seems parents are
becoming increasingly reluctant to send their children to school in case they get sick.

One school in Sydney's north says it had a quarter of its students stay home one day last week.

Oakhill Catholic College Principal Brother Ken Ormerod says he's never seen anything like it.

KEN ORMEROD: The number of students that had been kept home with flu has been extraordinarily high.
Normally we would go through a winter season with maybe a top absentee rate of something like 10
per cent but when the figures get up to 25 per cent of the school population, it is certainly
extraordinary.

PETER CAVE: School Principal Brother Ken Ormerod ending that report from Di Bain.