GPs urged not to ignore antivirals for severe flu cases

GPs should not be dissuaded from treating severely unwell flu patients with antivirals despite reports earlier in the year that the drugs were ineffective, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.

Flu: public health guidance urges GPs to consider antivirals (Photo: iStock)
Flu: public health guidance urges GPs to consider antivirals (Photo: iStock)

In updated guidance, PHE warned that GPs ‘should not be deterred from prescribing what may be life-saving drugs as a result of confusion over efficacy’.

GPs are advised to follow NICE guidelines and offer antiviral medicines to patients in high-risk groups or in special cases where ‘they believe [the patient] would suffer serious complications if not treated’.

Evidence presented earlier this year in the Cochrane Review 2014 suggested that antivirals, or neuraminidase inhibitors (NAI), were not effective in treating influenza.

Research findings

PHE said the findings of the report should not be used to determine whether or not to treat vulnerable patients because it only included data from randomised control trials on mainly healthy adults, not those at high risk.

But recent studies have suggested NAI treatment in severe cases could reduce the likelihood of death by 25% when compared to no antiviral treatment, PHE said in the report.

In the updated guidance, PHE said: ‘Due to evidence that antivirals can be of benefit in patients with severe influenza, PHE continues to support the use of NAIs for patients with proven or suspected seasonal influenza who are in high-risk groups (as per NICE guidance) or who are considerably unwell.’

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