Antivirals 'might be wasted on the elderly'

Providing antiviral drugs to the elderly might not help to reduce mortality rates from swine flu, research suggests.

The warning comes after Italian researchers modelled the effect of antiviral treatment on the spread of influenza, based on the behaviour of the 1918 flu virus.

They found that treatment of elderly does not lead to any significant reduction of the cumulative number of flu cases, while the effects of treating younger population and adults are similar to those observed when treatment is considered for all age classes.

This means that treatment of elderly has a poor effect in reducing the cumulative attack rate.

Dr Stefano Merler, from the Bruno Kessler Foundation, in Trento, North Italy, said: ‘Although a policy of age-specific prioritisation of antiviral use will be controversial ethically, it may be the most efficient use of stockpiled therapies.'

sanjay.tanday@haymarket.com

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