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Government authorises use of antiviral medicines to treat flu

By Rachel Carter
Freelance journalist

02 Jan 2019

Antiviral medicines can now be prescribed by GPs and supplied by pharmacists to treat some cases of the flu, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

An alert on the government department’s website said the medicines should be prescribed for patients in clinical at-risk groups suffering from the infection and those who are at risk of severe illness or complications from flu if left untreated.

The change, which will be paid for by the NHS, is in response to a rise in flu cases.


Guidance for pharmacists


Pharmacists should order the antiviral medicines in line with local requirements and not over-order, the alert said. They should also ensure supplies are issued quickly to patients to avoid treatment delays. The medicines are demonstrated to be more effective when started within two days of the first onset of symptoms, it said.

A bulletin on the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) website added that the medicines must be prescribed in line with NICE guidance and the Selected List Scheme (SLS) in Part XVIIIB of the England and Wales Drug Tariff.

Community pharmacy contractors who receive FP10 NHS prescriptions for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) must check they have SLS endorsement, it said. If the SLS endorsement is missing, the prescription should not be dispensed and will not be passed for payment by NHS prescription services.

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