(Bloomberg) -- The US is releasing reserves of the influenza treatment Tamiflu from a strategic stockpile, a response to rising demand during this year’s tough flu season.

Supplies are being sent to regions of the US in a process run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, according to a statement Wednesday from the agency. HHS is permitting local officials to dispense batches of Tamiflu they’ve been holding for pandemic preparedness and will also allow areas that run out to request more from the stockpile.

The Strategic National Stockpile serves as a safety net and has filled gaps in Tamiflu supplies in the past, such as in 2009 when the H1N1 pandemic depleted supplies of the children’s liquid version. HHS extended the labeled expiration date in some cases for state stockpiles earlier this year.

In early November, supplies of Tamiflu were limited in some formulations, as more than half of the companies that sold the generic version reported problems, according to the University of Utah drug information service. However, the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t list the drug on its shortage database. 

Read more: Tamiflu supplies seen limited in fast start to flu season

Flu season has been especially acute this year, with the highest hospitalization rate in over a decade.The omnibus spending bill just agreed to by Congress allocates an additional $120 million to the Strategic National Stockpile, bringing the budget to $965 million. Other common medications, such as amoxicillin and children’s acetaminophen, have also been in short supply this year.

The flu treatment comes in multiple forms, including pill and liquid. It should be used in the first 48 hours after symptoms commence, and can speed recovery by about a day. Treatment is especially important for high-risk people who might develop complications, such as young children and older adults, as well as hospitalized patients.

Branded Tamiflu is sold nationwide by Genentech, part of pharmaceutical and diagnostic giant Roche Holding AG. A spokesperson for the company said it remains available for pharmacies to order, with sufficient supplies to meet the demand.

--With assistance from Ike Swetlitz.

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