Thursday, December 2, 2010

Influenza; Is cure better than prevention?

At a time when healthcare systems around the world are facing severe financial strain, it is worth asking whether there are any quick and dirty solutions out there. Amazingly there are, chief amongst them the ability to reduce the morbidity and mortality attributable to seasonal flu by the simple expedient of administering flu vaccine. The evidence base is not just strong, but strongly impressive. To take one example, a Swedish study published in 2001 found that recipients (aged >65 years) were half as likely to die from any cause in the year of vaccination, compared to their unvaccinated peers.
One measure of the cost effectiveness of any intervention is the cost per Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) saved. One conventional measure suggests that a cost per QALY of up to $50,000 is economically worthwhile. The cost per QALY for flu vaccine is -$17, i.e. for every patient vaccinated, there is a saving to the funder of $17. A no brainer. So how are we doing in Ireland? Recent data suggest that only 50% of people > 65 receive the flu vaccine.
So in answer to the question above, prevention is better than cure.

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