GPs can prescribe Tamiflu to fight influenza

The Health Protection Agency’s (HPA) recently released health data show that GP consultations for influenza have risen – particularly amongst children and young people.

The HPA figures show that for the week prior to Christmas, weekly primary care consultation rates across England had increased to 27.4 per 100,000 people. Encouragingly, other countries in the UK had witness similar increases for the same period, with a rate of 18.9 per 100,000 in Wales, 19.7 per 100,000 in Scotland and 25.5 per 100,000 in Northern Ireland.

Flu-like symptoms were predominantly reported in the 5-14 year olds – double those of overall levels. Other HPA information show that also in the week before Christmas, 45 acute respiratory disease outbreaks had occurred; 43 within schools and the other 2 in care homes.

Influenza or ‘flu’ as it is commonly known as is a respiratory illness associated with infection by influenza virus. Common symptoms usually make an appearance roughly 2 days after infection and include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, aching muscles and joints. The condition was first identified in 1933, and there are main three types determined: Influenza A, B, and C.

Dr Richard Pebody, head of seasonal flu surveillance at the HPA commented that the latest flu figures were ‘encouraging’, saying: “The latest vaccine uptake figures for one of the ‘at risk’ groups – the over 65 age group – are encouraging, with more than 70 percent taking up the offer of the flu vaccine. Among those in an ‘at risk’ group under 65 years of age, uptake is just under 50 percent and around 40 percent of pregnant women and healthcare workers have accepted the offer of vaccination this season.”

The HPA stats come in the same week that it emerged The Department of Health (DoH) have informed GPs they  can prescribe antivirals such as Tamiflu for influenza to the groups of people who are most at risk of developing complications from contracting flu. High-risk people include pregnant women and those over the age of 65.

However, according to The DoH, there is a ‘substantial likelihood’ that schoolchildren across the UK showing with influenza-like symptoms had the disease.  NHS chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said: “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.”

This follows action from The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who last Friday extended the use of Tamiflu to children as young as 2 weeks old who have shown flu symptoms for no more than two days. The U.S. approval means that Tamiflu is the only prescription oral antiviral medication approved to treat patients of all ages; infants two weeks of age all the way to the elderly

Roche’s Tamiflu works at lessening the duration and severity of influenza by blocking the virus from replicating within the body. It belongs to a group of medicines named ‘neuraminidase inhibitors’. These medicines prevent the influenza virus from spreading inside the body and so help to ease or prevent the symptoms arising from the influenza virus infection. Tamiflu was first given FDA approval in the United States back in 1999, so its existence is not a new revelation. However, the drug came to worldwide prominence a decade later in 2009 due to the deadly H1N1 swine flu epidemic, hitting peak sales of an incredible $3 billion because of the epidemic.

Tamiflu is available today through Medical Specialists Pharmacy from as little as £21.98 per pack after we dramatically lowered the price of Tamiflu earlier in the year to help out new and existing patients during this difficult recession.

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