Doctors urged to prescribe antivirals in severe flu


  • Date: 13 November 2014

PATIENTS suffering from severe flu this winter should be treated with antivirals despite concerns over efficacy, according to new guidance from Public Health England.

PHE continues to support the early use of antivirals for patients with proven or suspected seasonal influenza who are considerably unwell or are in a high-risk group, such as older people or the very young, pregnant women and those with a chronic health condition including respiratory disease, diabetes or heart disease or those with a weakened immune system.

The new guidance follows concern from reports earlier this year that suggested antivirals are not effective for influenza. PHE believes this has caused confusion that could impact the prescribing of these drugs.

Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at PHE, said: "The severe impact that flu can have on the health of people at risk in our communities and on our health services is unquestionable, and whilst we know that antivirals are not a ‘magic bullet’ to prevent or treat flu in otherwise healthy individuals, the evidence is clear – that they can reduce the risk of death in patients hospitalised with flu or in those at greater risk from the complications of the virus.

"A recent study of patients hospitalised with flu showed that among adults, treatment with antivirals was associated with a 25 per cent reduction in the likelihood of death compared with no antiviral treatment. Early treatment within 48 hours of onset of symptoms halved the risk of death compared with no antiviral treatment. This supports the view that the benefit of this treatment is greatest when started within two days of onset of illness.”


Influenza: treatment and prophylaxis using anti-viral agents

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Save this article

Save this article to a list of favourite articles which members can access in their account.

Save to library

Related Content

Coroner's inquests

Roundtable part 2 - Diagnosing conditions with a slower progression

Roundtable part 1 - Dealing with serious childhood illnesses

For registration, or any login issues, please visit our login page.