Flu drug demand could `swamp GPs'

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A NEW generation of drugs to combat influenza could result in GP surgeries being hopelessly swamped by patients, doctors warned yesterday.

The first of the drugs, Relenza, has just been licensed for use in the UK and should be available soon. Relenza does not cure the illness but it reduces symptoms and shortens their duration by about two and a half days.

But Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the the British Medical Association's general practitioners' committee, said: "The launch of these drugs will potentially lead to enormous patient demand and huge additional pressures on GPs and primary care services and budgets.

"If those demands were to coincide with the Christmas and Millennium holiday, the NHS could be dangerously overstretched and the contingency plans which are rightly being devised in local winter planning groups may fail to meet the need."