LOVES PARK - Sheila Kitzman, a compounding pharmacist at North Park Pharmacy, makes medicine for children all the time.
Her experience is coming in handy during the current shortage of the children's version of Tamiflu, a first-line treatment for the H1N1 flu virus spreading across the country. Using the powder in capsules from adult doses, she can whip up a liquid children's version of the antiviral medicine in 15 to 20 minutes.
She said she has been filling two or three children's Tamiflu prescriptions daily for the past two weeks.
"The capsules are filled with powder - if it was a tablet, I would just pound it with my mortar and pestle and grind it - so each capsule that I open gives me my measurement of 75 milligrams per capsule," Kitzman said. "From there, it's just the mathematics, putting in the right proportion of a suspending agent so the powder doesn't all sink to the bottom or float on top, but is suspended nicely in the syrup.
"Then, we can flavor it however the kids want it. We can do grape, bubble gum, cherry - whatever they want - so it kind of personalizes it for them."
She said the amount of medicine needed in each prescription is determined by the child's age and weight.
The prescriptions can be for children 2 and older "because there could be a 12-year-old who, because of their age and weight, can take the 75-milligram dose but who can't swallow the capsule."
Kitzman said she attended a special course at the University of Florida to become certified as a compounding pharmacist because she wanted to be able "to take the time to offer personal attention to customers" and at the request of the Visiting
Nurses Association's hospice program.
The course and certification are required for a pharmacist to be able to buy the chemicals and equipment needed for compounding.
"For the Tamiflu, any pharmacist coming out of pharmacy school has the skills to do it," she said. "But, for me, it was an easy transition because I'm used to making these compounds."
Kitzman's usual compounding business involves making medicines for hospice care, hormone replacement and pediatricians. "Any time a small child needs a medication, it can be diluted to microamounts," she said, "so doing it with Tamiflu is not unique."
She is also able to fill prescriptions for medical creams and ointments.
The shortage of the children's suspension version of Tamiflu occurred because the drug's manufacturer, Switzerland-based Roche Holdings, decided after last spring's flu outbreak to focus its production on adult-strength capsules as it dealt with increasing worldwide demand for the medication.
"We knew this was going to be a really big deal coming now with the kids back in school," she said. "Roche concentrated all their production to the capsules knowing the suspension could be made using the capsules."
Mike DeDoncker can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or email@example.com.