Antivirals Decrease Flu-Related Complications, Resource Utilization

By Brenda L. Mooney, /alert Contributor
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Last year’s influenza season was one of the worst on record, with hospitalization rates among the highest recorded, but one bright spot was the demonstrated effectiveness of antiviral medications.

Recent research noted that hospitalization was surprisingly high among younger age groups, with those aged age 50-65, being admitted at a rate of 63.1 per 100,000 people compared to 35.1 in the last severe season, 2015-6.


Flu antivirals. Source: Getty

Industry researchers pointed out that understanding how antiviral use affects rates and severity of complications is important to help clinicians make the best treatment decisions.  Their study used real-world claims data from the United States for 3 flu seasons, from 2014 through 2016), to better understand the frequency of flu complications and how intervention with antivirals might affect their occurrence. 

In the retrospective cohort study using US commercial claims data from the 2014 to 2016 flu seasons, the study team identified patients with a diagnosis code for flu. Participants were required to have continuous insurance coverage for at least 365 days before and 91 days after diagnosis. 

The focus was on patients who were prescribed antivirals within 48 hours of the first flu-related encounter, and they were score matched to a comparative cohort without antiviral use within 48 hours but comparable baseline health resource utilization (HRU) and comorbidities.  

Analyzed and compared were all-cause and respiratory-related HRU and costs in the 30 and 91 days after flu diagnosis.

With 989,530 cases of influenza identified over 3 flu seasons, results indicated that 60.2% received antiviral therapy. In the matched sample, the researchers reported, greater HRU and costs were identified in the cohort that did not receive antiviral therapy.

In fact, 15% of those vs. 10.4% of the antiviral users visited the emergency department, and 2.8% vs 0.9%, respectively, were admitted for inpatient care within the 1st month.

“Similarly, greater HRU was also seen in respiratory-related HRU and costs in the cohorts that did not receive antiviral therapy,” the study team noted. “Findings were similar in unmatched cohorts. In data for the last 3 available flu seasons, flu patients treated with antivirals had less complications, healthcare resource utilization and overall costs than those who did not receive antiviral treatment.”

They pointed out, however, that “limitations with this kind of study restrict the conclusions that can be made from this analysis, however suggest that treating flu can improve outcomes and resource utilization beyond symptom resolution.”