Author(s): Schmidt AC
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Abstract Each year influenza epidemics cause a considerable burden of disease. Vaccination against influenza A and B viruses has been and remains the cornerstone of influenza prevention, but antiviral therapy can serve as an important adjunct to vaccination in controlling the impact of the disease. Two classes of drugs are currently licensed in a large number of countries for the treatment of influenza. The M2 ion channel blockers or amantadanes (amantadine and rimantadine) are specific inhibitors of influenza A virus replication, whereas the neuraminidase inhibitors (zanamivir and oseltamivir) are active against influenza A and B viruses. Readily transmissible drug-resistant viruses develop frequently during amantadane treatment but not during neuraminidase inhibitor treatment. In this review, efficacy and safety data from randomised controlled trials are evaluated to gain an understanding of what we can and cannot expect from antiviral treatment. All four drugs shorten the course of influenza disease by approximately 1 day and relieve symptoms to some extent, but there is still uncertainty as to whether antiviral therapy leads to a reduction of serious complications and hospitalisation. The results of cost-effectiveness analyses are very diverse, in part because of differences in methodology but also because there is no consensus on what probabilities to assign to the key risks and benefits that form the basis of these studies. Consensus statements by advisory bodies in England and Germany recommend neuraminidase inhibitors for the therapy of influenza in high-risk individuals such as people over 65 years or under 2 years, and individuals with chronic cardiovascular, pulmonary or renal disease, diabetes mellitus or immunosuppression. However, there is no agreement as to whether antiviral therapy can be generally recommended for otherwise healthy children and adults. The availability of safe and effective antiviral therapy options should be kept in mind by the practising clinician, while more specific recommendations and policy formulation will depend on additional efficacy data that include frequency of complications and hospitalisation as outcome measures.
This article was published in Drugs
and referenced in Medicinal Chemistry