United Kingdom approves antiviral use for flu

The United Kingdom Department of Health issued guidance last week on the use of antiviral drugs to manage patients presenting flu-like illness in groups at higher risk of developing flu complications.

The department approved the use of antivirals after receiving Health Protection Agency advice on the increasing levels of circulating flu. Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, made the announcement after flu-like illness among children aged five to 14 rose to 31.2 cases per 100,000 people in the week ending December 9, GP Online reports.

"The most recent surveillance data indicate that there is now a substantial likelihood that people, including children in schools, presenting with an influenza-like illness are infected with an influenza virus," Davies said, according to GP Online.

Davies said that general practitioners were able to prescribe antiviral medicines for flu treatment at the expense of NHS in accordance with prescription guidelines. At-risk people eligible for free antivirals include pregnant women. She said that GPs could use clinical discretion to prescribe antivirals to patients outside the list who could be at risk for flu complications.

Davies added that the increase in flu activity demonstrated the need for increased flu vaccine uptake. Davies encouraged health professionals to get vaccinated themselves, GP Online reports.