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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

FEDS: Start Stockpiling Anthrax Antibiotic Now

State and local health officials should consider stockpiling antibiotics, including in workplaces and possibly in homes, to prepare for a "possible large-scale anthrax attack," the National Academy of Sciences' institute of medicine, says in a new report.

The federal government has plenty of anti-anthrax antibiotics in its strategic national stockpile, Robert Bass, a Maryland public health official who chaired the Committee on Prepositioned Medical Countermeasures for the Public, says in a Sept. 30 news release. "The issue is not whether inventory is adequate but how to get the medication into people's hands soon enough to be effective. Because needs and capabilities vary across the country, state and local governments will have to examine which strategies would work best for them should an attack occur."

Local and state authorities should work with the federal government "to assess the benefits and costs of strategies" to pre-position the drugs where people would have quick access, the report says.

"Although plans for rapidly delivering [medical countermeasures] to a large number of people following an anthrax attack have been enhanced over the last decade, many public health authorities and policy experts fear that the nation's current systems and plans are insufficient to respond to the most challenging scenarios, such as a very large-scale anthrax attack," according to a report description on the website of the National Academies Press, which published the report.

Antibiotics are most effective if taken before anthrax symptoms occur, likely four days or longer, according to the report. Current plans call for delivering antibiotics after an attack from state stockpiles or the national stockpile maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local stockpiles would complement the state and federal stockpiles, and help get medicine to large populations within 48 hours "of a decision to dispense."

Home and workplace stockpiles are recommended for "areas that are at higher risk for an attack and have limited dispensing capability through the current [points of distribution] system," although doing so will add to costs and make plans difficult to change, the report says.

The report also recommends pre-dispensing antibiotics to small groups such as first responders and health-care workers, or people who can't travel to dispensing locations because of medical conditions. It recommends bringing private organizations "with relevant expertise" into the fold to help distribute antibiotics in the event of an attack, according to the news release.

The report was sponsored by the Health and Human Services Department. An early, uncorrected copy is available for $44.10, but the report can be read section-by-section for free online.

For more:
read the press release
read the report brief
buy the report
view the project website

Read more: Feds urge state and local stockpiling of anti-anthrax antibiotics - FierceHomelandSecurity


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