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Caley and colleagues found that West Midlands GPs thought oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) was easy for patients to obtain.1 But it is unclear how many patients actually complete the course. Between December 2009 and March 2010 we conducted an audit of patients with suspected swine flu at an inner London practice to see how many actually took a course of oseltamivir and reasons behind their decisions to take or not to take the drugs.
Using Population Manager in EMIS and key words ‘swine flu’ or ‘suspected swine flu’, we identified 72 registered patients who may have been prescribed oseltamivir between August and October 2009. Attempts were then made to contact these patients by telephone.
The response rate was 50% (36/72). Thirty-three of the 36 patients (92%) said they had been prescribed oseltamivir: 20 by the practice, 12 via the pandemic flu line, and one through the local out-of-hours service. The mean age of these 33 patients was 27 years (range 1 to 79 years), 45% were female, and 25% were from ethnic minority groups. The majority — 27 patients (82%) said they had completed the full 5-day course. Four patients took oseltamivir for less than 5 days, and two patients did not take any medication, one because of clinical improvement and one because of fear of side effects. In total, eight patients (24%) experienced symptoms that they attributed to oseltamivir, mainly gastrointestinal symptoms and listlessness or drowsiness.
Caley et al identified ease of obtaining antiviral medication as one of the strengths in the ‘professional to professional’ H1N1 response. Our small audit found this was matched by a high (82%) compliance rate in patients at one general practice, suggesting that many patients seem to have trusted the information they received.