Viral illnesses are notoriously difficult to treat. There are a host of antibiotics to fight bacteria, but until recently, most viruses were treated with over-the-counter analgesics plus supportive measures such as bed rest and fluids.
Four antiviral drugs have been approved for treatment of the flu:
Relenza and Tamiflu are neuraminidase inhibitors. When started promptly, they can decrease the severity and duration of both influenza A and B. Tamiflu is an oral medication, while Relenza is inhaled orally. Both appear to be effective in preventing influenza, although Relenza has not been officially approved by the FDA for this use. In animal studies, both appear to be effective against some strains of avian flu.
These medications shorten the disease process in otherwise healthy people. "What we'd really like to know, and what nobody does know, is the effect of drugs for influenza in people who are seriously ill," says Mark Abramowicz, MD, editor of The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics, a non-profit newsletter that critically appraises drugs. "We don't know whether that little bit of boost they give people who are experiencing a normal bout of flu would be lifesaving in the few people in whom the disease is out of control."
Flu vaccine is the main line of defense against influenza, since it offers protection that lasts for several months. Antiviral medications tend to be used for prevention in special situations, such as group living situations, or for immunodeficient patients who may respond poorly to the vaccine. "When a flu outbreak occurs in a nursing home you rush to vaccinate everybody, but the vaccine won't give them protective antibody levels for two weeks," explains Dr. Abramowicz. "In that situation you'd put everyone on amantadine or rimantadine in the meantime, to protect them until the vaccine takes effect."
This year, due to the vaccine shortage, some observers expected to see increased use of Relenza and Tamiflu, but in fact that didn't happen, says Daniel Winn, MD, senior medical director for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. "Of the two neuraminidase inhibitors, Relenza is more difficult to use, because it is inhaled, and can lead to coughing and bronchospasm," he says. "We haven't seen that much use of Tamiflu this flu season, either."
Another Dispatch From the Accumulator-Maximizer WarsJune 1st 2023
Vanderbilt’s Stacie Dusetzina and colleagues explain how the ‘copay adjustment’ programs work in this week’s JAMA Internal Medicine and also shed light on third strategy used by insurers and pharmaceutical benefit managers, the alternative payment program.
David Calabrese of OptumRx Talks New Role, Market Insulin Prices and Other Topics 'On His Mind'April 13th 2023
In this month’s episode of the "What's On Your Mind podcast," Peter Wehrwein, managing editor of MHE connects with the now Chief Clinical Officer of OptumRx Integrated Pharmacies, David Calabrese. In this conversation, David touches on his transition in January as OptumRx’s former chief pharmacy officer and market president of health plans and PBMs to his new role as Chief Clinical Officer where he now focuses more on things such as specialty pharmacy to home delivery — with an overall goal of creating whole-patient care. Throughout the conversation, Calabrese also touched on the market’s hot topic of insulin prices and behavioral health services within the OptumRx community, among other topics.
Drug Pricing Provisions Under the IRA and What They Mean for the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain | Asembia Specialty Pharmacy SummitMay 4th 2023
Kelsey Lang, principal of Avalere, breaks down the three provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was discussed today at the annual Asembia Specialty Pharmacy Summit in Las Vegas.
Nancy Lurker of EyePoint Pharmaceuticals Addresses Innovations in Eye Care, How to Grow in the C-Suite and What it Takes to Run a Biopharma CompanyApril 27th 2022
Briana Contreras, editor of Managed Healthcare Executive, spoke with Nancy Lurker, CEO and president of EyePoint Pharmaceuticals. Nancy shared a bit about EyePoint and how the organization’s innovative therapies are addressing patient needs through eye care, and most importantly, she addressed C-Suite positions like the CEO role. Nancy shared advice for those seeking to reach the CEO level, especially toward women in healthcare and other roles, and what it takes to run a biopharma company.
Most Favor PBM Rules | 2023 Annual Managed Healthcare Executive Pharmacy SurveyApril 29th 2023
Aside most of the 311 respondents to the 2023 Annual Managed Healthcare Executive Pharmacy Survey favoring PBMs, two-thirds indicated they favor restrictions on rebates and discounts so PBMs won’t favor drugs with high discounts. A similar proportion favor transparency rules that would require disclosure of rebates and discounts.
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