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Hospitalization rates for flu have reached record levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rapid spread of the illness is worrisome, with a higher-than-normal number of deaths related to flu and pneumonia, including 53 children.
For care providers and other companies all along the pharmaceutical supply chain, it has led to higher revenue from increasing hospital visits and drug sales.
Margins for flu treatments, widely available in generic form, are razor thin. But the surge in demand caused by this year’s outbreak has helped improve results at drug distributors such as McKesson Corp., which move medications from the factory to the pharmacy, and for drug retailers including CVS Health Corp., which have seen more consumers pick up prescriptions.
Laboratory companies such as Quest Diagnostics Inc. are also receiving a boost as more sick patients are being sent by their doctors for tests and blood work.
The effects are unlikely to ebb soon. More than 7 percent of people in the U.S. who visited a health-care provider during the week ending Jan. 27 went due to flu-like illness, a weekly level not seen since the 2009 swine-flu pandemic. This year’s flu vaccine has been unusually ineffective, and the season has shown no sign of subsiding.
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