-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, July 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Antiviral drugs
aren't prescribed often enough for patients at high risk for flu
complications, while too many of them receive unneeded antibiotics,
a new study says.
The findings show that doctors require more training about the
proper use of antiviral and antibiotic drugs in treating flu
patients, the researchers said. Unnecessary use of antibiotics
contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.
"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," wrote Dr. Fiona Havers and colleagues from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention and several other institutions.
The researchers analyzed data from about 6,800 patients with flu
symptoms seen at five outpatient care centers in Michigan,
Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin and Washington state during the
2012-13 flu season. The team focused on prescription records for
two antiviral drugs for flu -- oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir
(Relenza) -- and three widely used antibiotics
(amoxicillin-clavulanate, amoxicillin, and azithromycin).
Antiviral drugs were prescribed to only 19 percent of patients
who were at high risk for flu complications and saw a primary care
provider within two days of their flu symptoms emerging. And only
16 percent of patients with laboratory-confirmed flu got
oseltamivir or zanamivir.
However, 30 percent of these patients were prescribed
antibiotics, which are typically ineffective against flu unless it
has progressed to a bacterial infection, according to the study.
The study was published July 17 in the journal
Clinical Infectious Diseases.
"Continuing education on appropriate antibiotic and antiviral use is essential to improve health care quality," the researchers said.
The author of an accompanying editorial, Dr. Michael Ison, said
benefits associated with antiviral therapy for influenza include
fewer lower respiratory infections and hospitalizations and reduced
antibiotic use and stroke risk.
The study "demonstrates that we are clearly failing our patients
by not providing antiviral therapy to patients with influenza
consistent with current guidelines while exposing many of the
patients to antibiotics from which they likely derive little
benefit," wrote Ison, associate professor of infectious diseases
and organ transplantation at the Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine in Chicago.
The elderly, very young children and people with certain chronic
diseases are considered at high risk of flu complications,
including pneumonia and bronchitis. Pregnant women also fall into
the high-risk category, according to the CDC.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more
flu antiviral drugs.
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