Only 15 percent of patients at high risk for influenza complications who had an acute respiratory illness and sought medical care within two days of when their symptoms began received a prescription for flu antiviral medications, according to a study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authors published Feb. 26 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The findings underscore the fact that antiviral drugs are severely underutilized in high-risk patients in outpatient settings, the authors maintain.
Adults aged 65 or more years; individuals with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and lung disease; and others are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications. For them, the CDC recommends antiviral treatment as soon as possible, ideally within 48 hours of symptom onset. Two primary obstacles to the drugs being used, the study found, are that high-risk patients often wait until after two days of symptom onset to seek care, and that even when they do not wait, healthcare professionals may not prescribe the antiviral drugs. In this study, adults aged 65 or more years were the least likely to seek care early (25 percent).
The currently recommended influenza antiviral drugs—oseltamivir, zanamivir and peramivir—are the only influenza-specific therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with activity against circulating influenza viruses.