Pharmacists able to dispense antivirals at earliest point in flu season for five years

A woman blowing her nose

The government has written a letter giving pharmacists permission to dispense antiviral medicines at the expense of the NHS, in response to an increase in the number of influenza cases.

The letter was sent by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on 3 December 2019 — the earliest point in any of the past five flu seasons.

During the previous flu season, in 2018/2019, pharmacists were able to the dispense antivirals under the NHS from 31 December 2018. In the 2015/2016 flu season; this was delayed until 7 January 2016.

The latest DHSC letter was published in response to “an increase in influenza cases in the community”, it said.

The letter added: “Prescribers may now prescribe and pharmacists may now supply antiviral medicines for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza at NHS expense.”

According to the most recent weekly national influenza report, published by Public Health England (PHE) on 28 November 2019, some 190 new acute respiratory outbreaks were reported in the community during the previous seven days. This was compared with 122 in the previous week.

Of the 190 outbreaks reported, 142 occurred in schools, 34 were reported from care homes and 4 came from hospitals.

During the equivalent week in 2018, PHE reported just 27 new acute respiratory outbreaks in the preceding seven days.


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, December 2019, Vol 303, No 7932;303(7932):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20207424

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