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Few Get Flu Treatment In US

February 10, 2009

Suffering from the flu? If you’re like many Americans you won’t have the help of prescription drugs to gain relief.

According to a study released Monday, only a small percentage of people who get influenza or a similar illness are ever prescribed drugs shown to help the virus.

The survey of flu patients revealed that five percent of U.S. children see a doctor or nurse for influenza-like illness, compared to just about 2 percent of adults.

During the study, Thomson Reuters Healthcare examined insurance claims covering nearly 20 million people with health insurance over two flu seasons. The years spanned from 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates anywhere between 5 percent and 20 percent of the population gets flu in a given flu season.

The researchers studied influenza-like illnesses, which include influenza and respiratory diseases that cause fever, cough, and other symptoms.

The study found that 4 to 6 percent of patients with influenza like illnesses filled a prescription for an antiviral medication.

Roche and Co’s Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza are both recommended by doctors for treating influenza.

In most cases, doctors usually recommend only rest, fluids, and perhaps analgesics for treating viruses such as flu.

However, the CDC reports influenza kills 36,000 Americans in an average flu season.

Many of those who die from the flu are elderly or have chronic disease, but the study showed that patients with flu-like illness who seek medical treatment are more likely to be children.

“Approximately 1 in 18 children, 1 in 38 elderly persons, and 1 in 45 adults used influenza-like-illness-related inpatient or outpatient services in each flu season,” the report reads.

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