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Flu

Rise in flu cases prompts antivirals to be made available 'at NHS expense'

The Department of Health and Social Care has said influenza antivirals will be provided by the NHS, following a rise in new cases of flu in the community.

The drugs can be prescribed by GPs and supplied by pharmacists, both as a prophylactic for people in at-risk groups and for the treatment of those at risk of severe illness or complications who already have the virus.

In its announcement that the antivirals will be made available “at NHS expense”, the DHSC reminded pharmacists to supply products “promptly” and avoid delay as antiviral medicines are most effective when taken within two days of the first onset of symptoms.

But it added that pharmacists should only order the medicines in line with local need, and not over order.

The communiqué also reminded community pharmacists that any prescription, written generically or by brand, for oseltamivir (Tamiflu [Genentech; California]) or zanamivir (Relenza [GSK; London]) must be endorsed by the prescriber, under the Selected List Scheme (SLS) regulations.

“If the SLS endorsement is missing, the prescription should not be dispensed and will not be passed for payment by NHS prescription services. Pharmacy staff cannot make the SLS endorsement themselves,” it said.

GP consultations for influenza-like illness have risen in England, but are still below baseline numbers across all parts of the UK, according to official figures released by Public Health England (PHE) for the week ending 28 December 2018.

The overall weekly GP consultation rate was 9.4 per 100,000 registered population in England, which compared to 8.1 per 100,000 in the previous week.

Hospital admission rates for influenza-like illness were also up but were still within “moderate” limits, PHE said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20205949

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