Prescription of anti-influenza drugs for healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Lancet Infect Dis. 2009 Sep;9(9):537-45. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70199-9. Epub 2009 Aug 7.


In publicly funded health systems with finite resources, management decisions are based on assessments of clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. The UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence commissioned a systematic review to inform their 2009 update to guidance on the use of antiviral drugs for the treatment of influenza. We searched databases for studies of the use of neuraminidase inhibitors for the treatment of seasonal influenza. We present the results for healthy adults (ie, adults without known comorbidities) and people at-risk of influenza-related complications. There was an overall reduction in the median time to symptom alleviation in healthy adults by 0.57 days (95% CI -1.07 to -0.08; p=0.02; 2701 individuals) with zanamivir, and 0.55 days (95% CI -0.96 to -0.14; p=0.008; 1410 individuals) with oseltamivir. In those at risk, the median time to symptom alleviation was reduced by 0.98 days (95% CI -1.84 to -0.11; p=0.03; 1252 individuals) with zanamivir, and 0.74 days (95% CI -1.51 to 0.02; p=0.06; 1472 individuals) with oseltamivir. Little information was available on the incidence of complications. In view of the advantages and disadvantages of different management strategies for controlling seasonal influenza in healthy adults recommending the use of antiviral drugs for the treatment of people presenting with symptoms is unlikely to be the most appropriate course of action.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human / drug therapy*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Oseltamivir / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Zanamivir / therapeutic use*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Oseltamivir
  • Zanamivir