The research – published in Interface, a journal of the Royal Society – shows that while stockpiling antiviral drugs is a highly effective way to reduce deaths in ‘flu epidemics, the large financial investment required to maintain a reserve of drugs at current pricing means that the strategy is not cost effective for almost two thirds of countries.
Statisticians used a complex mathematical model to analyse information collected from ‘flu epidemics from 1918 onwards, finding that countries which had maintained a stockpile of ‘flu drugs consistently suffered fewer deaths in epidemics. However, for less wealthy countries the cost of maintaining a stockpile was so high that despite the decrease in mortality, the strategy wasn’t cost-effective.
In poorer countries where public health money may be limited this could have severe implications. As the authors state: “Despite the high number of potential fatalities that could be avoided, stockpiling antivirals in resource-limited countries imply that valuable resources are not allocated to ongoing severe health problems like measles, malaria or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.”