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Save anti-virals “for the young”


In the event of the Government rationing anti-viral treatments for swine flu, elderly victims should be put at the back of the queue, a study suggests.

Italian researchers say reserving drugs such as Tamiflu for the younger population could be the most effective way to save lives and prevent illness.

The controversial strategy from the Bruno Kessler Foundation in Trento, Italy, is based on the great 1918 pandemic, which was most lethal to younger adults.

Mathematician Stefano Merler mostly studied Italy, which is said to have only enough anti-virals to treat seven million people, or 12 per cent of the population.

Predictive models showed that governments should stockpile enough drugs to treat at least a quarter of their populations, assuming moderate levels of infectivity.

Mr Merler argues if supplies are lower than this, it makes sense to ration the anti-virals according to age-specific fatality rates.

“Although a policy of age-specific prioritisation of anti-viral use will be controversial ethically, it may be the most efficient use of stockpiled therapies,” he explained.

Copyright Press Association 2009

Bruno Kessler Foundation

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