Community pharmacists, GPs and other prescribers in primary healthcare may now give some patients antiviral treatment for influenza at the expense of the NHS.
But pharmacists have been requested to order antivirals only as needed and not to overstock, to reduce the likelihood of shortages in the supply chain.
The NHS will cover the expense of supplying the antivirals oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) to patients in clinical atâ€risk groups, and also to those at risk of severe illness and/or complications if their influenza is not treated.
Hospital clinicians should prescribe antiviral medicines for patients whose illness is confirmed or clinically suspected to be due to influenza, the letter adds. Public Health England guidance on the use of antivirals for seasonal influenza is signposted to in the document.
The decision, communicated via the NHS Central Alerting System in a letter signed by Sally Davies and Keith Ridge, England’s chief medical officer and chief pharmaceutical officer respectively, has been made in response to surveillance data indicating rising levels of influenza in the community.