Health officials say governments can keep their stockpiles of Tamiflu for longer.
Authorities including the World Health Organisation have decided to extend the medicine's shelf life by two years to fight the swine flu pandemic. It should preserve the stockpiles of the drug that governments started to build up five years ago in response to an outbreak of bird flu.
Some of the millions of packets that have been sold are nearing the previous five-year date after which they were supposed to be discarded.
"Expiry dates on medicine specifies a date until the manufacturer can guarantee the full potency and safety of medicine," says Health24's pharmacist, Jaco Lotriet. "It doesn't mean that the medicine will stop working or will be unsafe, after a certain date. Except for nitroglycerine, insulin and fluid antibiotics, most medicines will still be effective after the expiry date, especially if it was stored in a controlled environment."
Roche spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt says some 220 million individual treatments of Tamiflu have been sent to governments around the world since 2004.
It is unclear how many of the treatments are still held and how many have been used to treat outbreaks of bird flu or swine flu. – (Sapa, August 2009)