NHS prescribing of flu antivirals approved

GPs can now prescribe antivirals for the treatment and prophylaxis of influenza at NHS expense, an alert issued by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has advised.

Surveillance data shows influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 is currently the dominant subtype of influenza circulating in the UK. | CAVALLINI JAMES/BSIP/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Surveillance data shows influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 is currently the dominant subtype of influenza circulating in the UK. | CAVALLINI JAMES/BSIP/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

The CMO announcement, issued on December 31st, has been prompted by surveillance data indicating an increase in influenza cases in the community.

Antivirals may be prescribed for patients in clinical at-risk groups as well as any patients who are at risk of severe illness and/or complications from influenza if not treated. All prescriptions for influenza antivirals issued in primary care should be endorsed with 'SLS'.

Hospital clinicians may continue to prescribe antivirals for patients whose illness is confirmed or clinically suspected to be caused by influenza. Laboratory confirmation with subtype identification should be obtained as soon as possible.

Influenza antivirals available to prescribe in the UK include oseltamivir (Tamiflu oral capsules and suspension) and zanamivir (Relenza powder for inhalation). Information on at-risk groups and patients eligible for treatment in primary care at NHS expense with either of these drugs can be found on the DH website.

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