(HealthDay News) — Few outpatients with influenza are prescribed antivirals, while antibiotic prescribing is more frequent, according to a study published online July 16 in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Fiona Havers, MD, MHS, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues describe antiviral receipt among outpatients with acute respiratory illness and antibiotic receipt among patients with influenza. Data were obtained from five sites in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network Study for the 2012–2013 influenza season. Medical and pharmacy records were used to obtain medical history and prescription information.

The researchers found that 7.5% of the 6,766 patients with acute respiratory illness received an antiviral prescription. Overall, 35% of these patients had polymerase chain reaction-confirmed influenza; 15% received an antiviral prescription. Nineteen percent of the 1,021 acute respiratory infection patients at high risk for influenza complications were prescribed an antiviral medication. Of the participants with antibiotic data, 30% of those with PCR-confirmed influenza were prescribed one of three antibiotics and 16% were prescribed antiviral medications.

“Antiviral treatment was prescribed infrequently among outpatients with influenza for whom therapy would be most beneficial; in contrast, antibiotic prescribing was more frequent,” the authors write. “Continued efforts to educate clinicians on appropriate antibiotic and antiviral use are essential to improve health care quality.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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