Systematic review and economic decision modelling for the prevention and treatment of influenza A and B

Health Technol Assess. 2003;7(35):iii-iv, xi-xiii, 1-170. doi: 10.3310/hta7350.


Objectives: To establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of amantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir compared to standard care for the treatment and prevention of influenza.

Data sources: Electronic databases. Reference lists of identified articles and key publications. Relevant trials.

Review methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of the randomised evidence was undertaken to investigate the effectiveness of oseltamivir and zanamivir compared to standard care for treatment and prophylaxis use for influenza A and B. An additional systematic review of the effectiveness of amantadine for treatment and prophylaxis use for influenza A in children and the elderly was also undertaken. Economic decision models were constructed to examine the cost-effectiveness and cost-utility of the alternative strategies for treating and preventing influenza A and/or B. This was informed by the systematic reviews outlined above and additional sources of information where required.

Results: The systematic review of the treatment of influenza found that oseltamivir reduced the median duration of symptoms in the influenza positive group by 1.38 days for the otherwise healthy adult population, 0.5 day for the high-risk population, and 1.5 days for the children population. This compared to 1.26 days, 1.99 days, and 1.3 for the similar groups for inhaled zanamivir. The systematic review of the prevention of influenza found that the relative risk reduction for oseltamivir was between approximately 75 and 90% and approximately 70 and 90% for inhaled zanamivir depending on the strategy adopted and the population under consideration. For the economic model a base case was constructed that focussed primarily on the health benefits generated by shortening the period of influenza illness. This base case found that, compared to standard care, the estimated cost per quality-adjusted life year ranged from pound 6190 to pound 31,529 for healthy adults, from pound 4535 to pound 22,502 for the 'high-risk' group, from pound 6117 to pound 30,825 for children, and from pound 5057 to pound 21,781 for the residential care elderly population. The base case model included valuations of the health effects of pneumonia (and otitis media in the children's model) based on observed rates in the trials. However it does not include the cost of hospitalisations as only very limited data was available for the effects of antivirals on hospitalisation rates. As for mortality rates, deaths from influenza were rare in trials of neuraminidase inhibitors (NIs). Therefore, suitable data on mortality were not available from these sources. As avoided hospitalisation costs and avoided mortality are potentially important we also carried out sensitivity analysis that involved extrapolating the observed reductions in pneumonias in the NI trials to hospitalisations and deaths. In all four models the cost-effectiveness of NIs is substantially improved by this extrapolation. For prophylaxis, antiviral drugs were compared with vaccination as preventative strategies. In all cases the cost-effectiveness ratios for vaccination were either low or cost-saving. In the base case the cost-effectiveness of antivirals was relatively unfavourable, there were scenarios relating to the elderly residential care model where antivirals as an additional strategy could be cost-effective.

Conclusions: The cost-effectiveness varies markedly between the intervention strategies and target populations. The estimate of cost effectiveness is also sensitive to variations in certain key parameters of the model, for example the proportion of all influenza-like illnesses that are influenza. The effectiveness literature that was used to inform the economic decision model spans many decades and hence great caution should be exercised when interpreting the results of indirect intervention comparisons from the model. Further randomised trials making direct comparisons would be valuable to verify the model's findings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / classification
  • Antiviral Agents / economics
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / economics
  • Influenza, Human* / classification
  • Influenza, Human* / drug therapy
  • Influenza, Human* / economics
  • Influenza, Human* / prevention & control
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Influenza Vaccines