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Tuesday, 10 October, 2000, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Flu drug may be available this winter
NICE said Relenza should not be available on the NHS last year
The flu drug, Relenza, will be available this winter for elderly people and others at high risk, reports suggest.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence will shortly recommend whether the flu treatment it ruled out last year can be prescribed by GPs this winter.

Indications are that there will be an about turn on last year's decision, when the institute said the much-hyped drug should not be available on the NHS.

According to a report from Reuters, people with heart and breathing problems and elderly people will be able to get the 24-a-course treatment from their doctors.

Official guidance will be available in late October or early November

Anne-Toni Rodgers, NICE

Relenza is taken in inhaler form and must be taken within the first 48 hours of flu symptoms developing to have any effect.

It has been shown to reduce the severity of flu symptoms and shorten the time they last.

Last winter concerns centred on the potential cost of prescribing Relenza to an over-stretched NHS - experts predicted it could cost up to 100m in a flu epidemic year.

GPs were also relieved that they did not face waiting rooms overflowing with patients demanding a quick fix for their coughs and sneezes.


NICE agreed to consider its use again this year, particularly for those who would suffer the most serious complications from a bout of flu.

NICE communications director, Anne- Toni Rodgers said no official guidance had yet been released and the process of reviewing Relenza was still ongoing.

"Official guidance will be available in late October or early November and it doesn't help the service at all to speculate about these things," she said.

And a spokesperson for the British Medical Association said that, rather than seeking treatments for flu the best thing was to avoid getting it in the first place.

"Whatever the effects of a new drug like Relenza it is much better for elderly and high risk people to get along to their doctors and get the flu immunisation that is available now," she said.

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See also:

04 Oct 99 | Health
Relenza: The reaction
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02 Sep 99 | Health
Cost warning on flu drug
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