Department of Health issues use of antiviral medicines letter

January 8, 2016

The Department of Health (DH) has issued a letter advising that GPs and other prescribers working in primary care in England may now prescribe at NHS expense, antiviral medicines for the prophylaxis and treatment of influenza, in accordance with NICE guidance and the Selected List Scheme (SLS) in Part XVIIIB of the England and Wales Drug Tariff.

Community pharmacy contractors who receive NHS prescriptions – written generically or by brand –  for oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza), the antivirals included in the SLS list, are therefore reminded that prescriptions for these products must be endorsed ‘SLS’.  If the ‘SLS’ endorsement is missing, the prescription should not be dispensed and will not be passed for payment by NHS Prescription Services. Pharmacy staff cannot make the ‘SLS’ endorsement themselves.

PSNC would urge contractors not to over order stocks of antiviral medicines. Over ordering could result in shortages in the supply chain. It is, however, important that oseltamivir for adults and children and zanamivir for adults are taken within 48 hours of onset of symptoms. Children 5 years and over and under 13 years of age should start taking zanamivir within 36 hours of onset of symptoms, to obtain maximum benefit.

The DH letter also highlights the need to ensure maximum protection against flu through vaccination. Pharmacy teams are reminded to continue to encourage as many eligible patients as possible to get vaccinated against flu before the pharmacy flu vaccination service ends in February 2016.

Department of Health letter: Influenza season 2015/16 – Use of antiviral medicines