Older adults who receive the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) shortly after contracting influenza are less likely to be readmitted to the hospital, a new study finds.

Researchers investigated the benefits of administering oseltamivir in hospitalized influenza patients within 48 hours, compared with later administration or no treatment. Their analysis included data from four flu seasons, and more than 1,800 participants with a mean age of 66.

Many were admitted to intensive care, with a mortality rate of more than 4% and a readmission rate of 14%. Overall, 24.5% received prompt treatment with oseltamivir. These patients were less likely to be readmitted within 30 days and had shorter lengths of stay than their study cohorts, reported corresponding author Yogesh Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., of Flinders University, in Australia. There also was “a trend toward improvement” but no significant reduction in 30-day mortality, he and his colleagues added.

The beneficial effect of oseltamivir may be due to a reduction of secondary complications such as bacterial pneumonia or fewer exacerbations of underlying chronic medical conditions, the authors wrote.

The findings support clinical practice guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and influenza antiviral treatment recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sharma and colleagues concluded. 

Full findings were published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.