Most Kids With the Flu Miss Out on Antiviral Tamiflu

TUESDAY, Nov. 14, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Children stricken with influenza aren’t receiving the flu-busting antiviral drug Tamiflu even though it’s recommended for them, a new study says.

Three of five children with the flu aren’t prescribed Tamiflu, researchers report online Nov. 13 in the journal Pediatrics.

“We found that young children, less than 5 years old and especially those 2 years old and younger, are undertreated for influenza,” lead researcher Dr. James Antoon, an assistant professor of pediatrics and hospital medicine at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, said in a university news release.

“We noted that about 40% of children were treated with an antiviral, when guidelines recommend all of them be treated,” Antoon added. “It’s important to note that we found low rates of antiviral use in all age groups.”

Tamiflu is the only oral antiviral medication approved for use in children under age 5.

For this study, researchers examined nine years of outpatient and emergency room prescription claims for patients under 18, in a data pool from all 50 states.

Researchers also found that use of Tamiflu in children with flu varies widely across the country. There was a threefold to twentyfold difference in the rate of Tamifu use based on geographic region, and this variance was not explained by differences in the incidence of flu.

“These findings highlight opportunities for improvement in the prevention and treatment of influenza, especially in the most vulnerable children,” Antoon said.

Kids might not be getting Tamiflu because people aren’t aware of the national guidelines recommending its use, are concerned about adverse drug effects, or don’t think it will work, Antoon and his colleagues speculated.

These results highlight the need for better management of the flu in child patients, researchers concluded.

“Treatment of children in the outpatient setting has been reported to decrease symptom duration, household transmission, antibiotic use and influenza- associated complications like ear infections,” Antoon said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about children and flu antiviral drugs.

SOURCE: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, news release, Nov. 13, 2023

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