State completes antibiotics survey

Posted: Sunday, November 04, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A survey of pharmacies in Alaska indicates there's enough antibiotics to treat almost 15,000 Alaskans for five days if they're exposed to anthrax. National stockpiles would have to be tapped after that.

On Oct. 17, the state's Division of Health and Social Services called for the survey, The Division of Medical Assistance carried out the research.

Jay Livey, Department of Health and Social Services commissioner, said the survey was only the first of the state's drug supply.

''One of the reasons for doing a survey is to compare the available drugs from week to week,'' he said. ''We're going to keep doing that.''

Anthrax, a potentially deadly bacteria, continues to be a problem in the Lower 48. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a fourth person, a New Yorker, died from the disease Wednesday.

The state's emergency coordination center has received almost 60 calls reporting potential bioterrorism events. So far, all anthrax tests have come back negative.

Over the past two weeks, Dave Campana, Medicaid pharmacy program manager for the health division, and research analyst Gary Medsker made survey calls to pharmacies from Barrow to Ketchikan. State officials wanted to know how many antibiotics were on hand in case Alaskans were exposed to anthrax. On Wednesday, Medsker said they had reached 87 of the 97 pharmacies on their list.

''There's a couple of pharmacies that didn't want to talk to us,'' Campana said. Some pharmacists considered their information proprietary, and others said they were too busy to answer questions.

Four antibiotics can be used to treat people who've been exposed to the anthrax strains found along the East Coast. Quantities can fluctuate daily because they are prescribed for many medical reasons beyond anthrax exposure.

Pharmacies statewide had 100,846 of the 500 mg amoxicillin pills; 70,331 of the 100 mg doxycycline tablets; 24,672 of the 500 mg Cipro pills; and 14,804 of the 500 mg tetracycline pills, Medsker said.

Dr. Beth Funk, state medical epidemiologist, said that in the event of anthrax exposure, health officials would likely tap Alaska's pharmacies to gather enough drugs to start people on antibiotics before the national stockpile arrived. Using that approach, almost 14,850 residents could start treatment with a five-day course of the available antibiotics.

The five days of drugs would only be a fraction of what would be needed for a full course of antibiotics to prevent inhalation anthrax. For example, the CDC recommends 60 days of Cipro or doxycycline.

State health officials are creating a pharmaceutical plan that should be completed by Dec. 1, Livey said. The plan will discuss access to the national stockpile, how it will be handled once it arrives in Alaska and whether or not the state should assemble its own stockpile.

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