Despite concerns from public health officials, influenza antiviral drugs were not hoarded during the recent H1N1 flu season, according to a new analysis presented recently at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy's 22nd Annual Meeting in San Diego by Prime Therapeutics (Prime), a thought leader in pharmacy benefit management.
For the study, researchers from Prime and one of its Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) clients compared the use of influenza antiviral drugs during the H1N1 season to antiviral use during past flu seasons. The H1N1 global pandemic was declared in June 2009, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended that patients at high risk of a complication, or those suspected of influenza and with more serious symptoms, receive antiviral medications. Amidst public concern about the pandemic, public health officials warned against hoarding of antiviral medication.
Researchers examined antiviral use among nine million members enrolled in commercial health plans across 11 states between September 2006 and December 2009 to determine the frequency of high-quantity and multiple-refill oseltamivir (a common influenza antiviral drug) claims among different geographic regions. While there was variability in antiviral use across geographic regions, use of antivirals during the H1N1 season was comparable to past flu seasons, and there was little indication of hoarding.
The study was designed to evaluate whether a utilization management program might increase patient safety and control costs. Researchers concluded that the impact of an antiviral quantity limit program would be limited given the low prevalence of high-quantity oseltamivir claims.
"During a pandemic, by monitoring the rate of prescriptions filled compared to past flu seasons, and watching for specific regional spikes in use that seem out of the ordinary, we can better determine whether medications are being hoarded," said Pat Gleason, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, Director of Clinical Outcomes Assessment with Prime. "Preventing hoarding allows providers to better manage antiviral use to ensure those most in need are getting the medications. As we saw in this study, hoarding was not an issue during the recent H1N1 flu season."