GPs are able to prescribe antivirals for influenza in those at risk of developing complications, the Department of Health has advised.
The DH said that there was a ‘substantial likelihood’ that school children presenting with influenza-like illness had the disease, and that GPs could now prescribe antivirals to treat or prevent flu.
The latest Health Protection Agency figures show that overall weekly influenza GP consultation rates remain low but are increasing in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the highest rates in the five to 14 years age group.
The urgent alert for the 2012/13 influenza season means that GPs can now prescribe antivirals oseltamivir or zanamivir in line with NICE guidance and the GMS ‘Grey List’, or Selected List Scheme (SLS).
NHS chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies’ alert said: ‘The most recent surveillance data indicate that there is now a substantial likelihood that people, including children in schools, presenting with an influenza-like illness are infected with an influenza virus.’
‘GPs may now prescribe at NHS expense, antiviral medicines for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza, in accordance with NICE guidance and Schedule 2 to the National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) (Prescription of drugs etc) Regulations 2004), commonly known as the Grey List or Selected List Scheme (SLS).’
The ‘Grey List’, which is included within the drug tariff, restricts GPs to only prescribe antiviral medicines to people in clinical at-risk groups, pregnant women, people over the age of 65 and – since April last year – at the GP’s discretion, using their clinical judgement, to patients at risk of developing medical complications from influenza.
The letter reminds GPs to endorse all prescriptions for the two influenza drugs with the ‘SLS’ reference or community pharmacies will not be able to dispense it at NHS expense.