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Findings suggest antivirals underprescribed for patients at risk for flu complications
Date:7/16/2014

Patients likely to benefit the most from antiviral therapy for influenza were prescribed these drugs infrequently during the 2012-2013 influenza season, while antibiotics may have been overprescribed. Published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and now available online, the findings suggest more efforts are needed to educate clinicians about the appropriate use of antivirals and antibiotics in the outpatient setting.

Influenza is a significant cause of mortality and morbidity, resulting in more than 200,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year, on average. While annual vaccination remains the best defense, current recommendations advise prompt antiviral treatment for high-risk patients with influenza, including those who are hospitalized, who have severe influenza illness, or who are at higher risk for complications.

In their study, Fiona Havers, MD, MHS, and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several other institutions analyzed data for approximately 6,800 patients with acute respiratory illness who were seen at five outpatient care centers in Washington state, Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The researchers examined prescription records for two influenza antiviral drugs (oseltamivir and zanamivir) and three common antibiotics (amoxicillin-clavulanate, amoxicillin, and azithromycin).

Overall, only 19 percent of the patients at high risk for influenza-associated complications who saw a primary-care provider within two days of the onset of their symptoms received antiviral treatment. Among patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza, just 16 percent were prescribed antivirals. In contrast, 30 percent of these patients received one of the three antibiotics.

"Our results suggest that during 2012-'13, antiviral medications were underprescribed and antibiotics may have been inappropriately prescribed to a large proportion of outpatients with influenza," the authors wrote. "Continu
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Contact: Jerica Pitts
jpitts@pcipr.com
312-558-1770
Infectious Diseases Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

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