THE Federal Government has admitted it is about to replace 1.9 million doses of anti-flu vaccines because the drugs will soon be out of date.
With the world facing a possible swine flu pandemic, the Rudd Government has admitted the shelf-life of the Tamiflu drug is five years.
The initial stockpile, set aside for use in a national emergency, was purchased by the Howard Government in 2004 - five years ago.
Responding to questions from The Sunday Telegraph, a spokesman for Health Minister Nicola Roxon revealed 1.6 million packs were removed from the Commonwealth's stockpile this month because they had passed their use-by date.
They had already been replaced and another 1.9 million courses would have to be replaced progressively from June to August, the spokesman said.
But the Government faces stiff market competition with a spike in world-wide demand for Tamiflu.
Tamiflu and a similar drug, Relenza, are the only treatments found to be effective in combating swine flu, which has claimed more than 100 lives -- most of them in its country of origin, Mexico.
India has announced plans to purchase enough Tamiflu to treat nine million people.
Australia has enough vials to provide 8.7 million doses.
But experts warn that won't be adequate because a full course requires multiple doses.
With the World Health Organisation now confirming swine flu has reached 13 countries, Ms Roxon conceded yesterday it was only a matter of time before the disease reached Australia.
"I think now that you see the increasing transmission, particularly human to human across the world, it's going to be increasingly difficult for us to prevent this disease from coming into Australia," Ms Roxon said.
The World Health Organisation has admitted it will take months to develop a vaccine against the swine flu.
The Howard Government began buying Tamiflu in 2004 to combat bird flu.