Health Care / Medicine, Rudeness, Swine Flu

Ropes & Gray: Stockpiling Swine Flu Drugs

ropes gray logo.JPGAccording to the Center for Disease Control, these are the groups most at risk for swine flu:

* Children younger than 2 years old;
* Adults 65 years of age or older;
* Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks postpartum (including following pregnancy loss)
* Persons with the following conditions:
* Chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, hematological (including sickle cell disease), or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);
* Disorders that that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions or that can increase the risk for aspiration (e.g., cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other neuromuscular disorders)
*Immunosuppression, including that caused by medications or by HIV;

Oh wait, I think the CDC forgot a group: Biglaw lawyers. Ropes & Gray apparently thinks that its lawyers are at risk — so like any good company, the firm is “stockpiling” swine flu drugs. The Boston Globe reports:

The Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray made arrangements this month for hundreds of its employees and their families to obtain the antiviral medicine Tamiflu to protect them from swine flu, a move that the company calls a wise precaution but that public health officials criticized as medically questionable stockpiling.

Hoarding swine flu medication? Really? That is not cool.
Additional details after the jump.

It is arguably bad form for Ropes to be stockpiling swine flu drugs for people who are not really at risk for suffering serious consequences from the flu. But could the practice of Ropes & Gray (and many other corporations) actually lead to a more virulent strain of swine flu?

Providing the drug to healthy people – who may take it inappropriately, such as for a cold or mild case of the flu – could encourage the emergence of a strain of H1N1 resistant to Tamiflu just when the need for effective treatment is greatest, health officials said.
“We are very concerned about resistance,” said Bill Hall, a spokesman for the US Department of Health and Human Services. “Prescribing antivirals indiscriminately is not consistent with our guidance. Most people [who get H1N1] don’t become severely ill and don’t need to have antivirals.”

The old, the young, and the weak become seriously ill from swine flu. Hypochondriacs take swine flu medication. Swine flu gets stronger. Humane reason = Epic Fail.
Of course, Ropes & Gray doesn’t feel it is doing anything wrong:

“There is no higher priority at Ropes & Gray than the health and safety of the firm’s employees,” spokesman John Tuerck said in an e-mailed statement. “Like many other professional services firms, we made the optional Tamiflu program available to our employees to combat the duration and severity of flu symptoms.”

Couldn’t “not contributing to the genetic mutation of a possible super virus” be a higher priority?
Some doctors think that Ropes & Gray’s interest in keeping its employees showing up to work should give way to, you know, the good of society:

Doctors in Boston who became aware of the Ropes & Gray effort said they are worried such programs may create shortages down the line for flu sufferers who really need the drug. “This is an example of hoarding medications in response to a potential epidemic,” said Dr. Ron Katz. an internist. …
Dr. Karen Victor, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said “the main issue here is really access.” The firm “is deciding that Ropes & Gray’s employees’ appearance at work is so important that they will put that above fairness to society,” she said.

Of course, Ropes & Gray has no obligation to care about any of that. And apparently it doesn’t.
Firms’ deals for flu drug draw fire [Boston Globe]

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