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Antivirals Under-prescribed For Patients At Risk For Flu Complications

Update Date: Jul 17, 2014 10:13 AM EDT

Patients who were likely to benefit the most from antiviral therapy for influenza were prescribed these drugs less frequently during the 2012-2013 influenza season and instead antibiotics were overprescribed, a new study has found. 

Study suggested that more efforts are needed to educate clinicians about the appropriate use of antivirals and antibiotics in the outpatient setting. 

Influenza causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year on an average. 

The study is an analysis of approximately 6,800 patients with acute respiratory illness who were seen at five outpatient care centers in Washington state, Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Researchers analyzed prescription records for two influenza antiviral drugs  (oseltamivir and zanamivir) and three other common antibiotics (amoxicillin-clavulanate, amoxicillin, and azithromycin). 

According to the study, 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, only 16 percent were prescribed antivirals. Contrastingly 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. "Continuing education on appropriate antibiotic and antiviral use is essential to improve health care quality."

The study is published in the Clinical Infectious Disease.

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