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LCQ17: Stockpiling of antiviral drugs
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     Following is a question by the Hon Andrew Cheng and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (January 14):

Question:

     Will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the details of the drugs and vaccines procured by the Government in each of the past five years for the purposes of coping with and taking precaution against influenza pandemics (including setting out the quantity of each type of drugs/vaccines, the expenditure involved, the target and actual stockpile levels, as well as the quantity of drugs/vaccines in each procurement batch according to their expiry date); and

(b) the actions taken by the authorities when such drugs/vaccines are approaching their expiry dates, in order to maintain the stockpile levels of potent drugs/vaccines?


Reply:

President,

(a) The stockpiling of antiviral drugs is an important element in the Governments Preparedness Plan for Influenza Pandemic.  On the advice of its Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (SCEZD), the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) has stockpiled antiviral drugs to prepare for emergency situations.  Currently, the stockpiling of antiviral drugs includes both oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza).  In the financial year 2005/06, the Legislative Council approved a funding of $254 million for the Government to increase the stockpile level of antiviral drugs against avian influenza from 3.7 million doses to about 20 million doses.  Types and quantity of drugs against avian influenza procured by DH and the expenditure involved in the financial years 2004/05 to 2008/09 are tabulated in Table 1.

     DH checks regularly the expiry dates of drugs so as to ensure their potency.  Among the existing stockpile of drugs against avian influenza, 1,003,910 doses have expired, while the remaining 19,646,250 doses are still unexpired.  Details of the unexpired drugs are set out in Table 2.

     Regarding human vaccines against H5 avian influenza virus, the SCEZD of CHP is deliberating the stockpiling of the vaccines and the target groups for vaccination, taking into account the efficacy, safety and quality assurance of the vaccines.  Given that the SCEZD has yet to come up with a conclusion, no human vaccines have been procured or stockpiled by DH at the present moment.  DH will keep in view the situation of avian influenza and the latest scientific research on human vaccines against H5 avian influenza virus.  The expert opinion of the SCEZD will also be sought.

(b) DH has been closely monitoring the Shelf Life of the antiviral drugs and their updated application.  DH will update the antiviral stockpiling strategies from time to time, taking into account the recommendations of the SCEZD and World Health Organisation, and seek funding approval from the Legislative Council to procure antiviral drugs as and when necessary.

Ends/Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:20

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