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.”