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Stanford researcher shows flu shot benefits outweigh costs in healthy young adults

of the flu vaccine averages $10.41 but may range from $5 to $20. For each combination of costs and benefits, the computer determined which of eight prevention and treatment strategies was most cost beneficial. The strategies included either vaccination or non-vaccination and, for those who became ill, treatment with one of three antiviral medications, including rimantadine, zanamivir and oseltamivir, or no treatment.

Using the average values for all costs and benefits, the researchers found that the four strategies that included vaccination had an overall savings of about $30 each compared to no vaccination and no treatment with antivirals. Treatment with rimantidine or zanamavir without vaccination had small savings (less than $5); treatment with oseltamivir without vaccination had a cost of 3 cents.

Lee said using a computer model may appear less rigorous because randomized clinical trials are usually the gold standard of medical research. But two previous clinical trials on the costs and benefits of flu vaccinations for healthy adults yielded widely different results. One found a savings of $46.85 per vaccination, while another found costs of $65.59 and $11.17 per vaccination over two seasons.

"Clinical trials are snapshots in time. They look at one flu season and one flu vaccine," Lee said. "In a clinical scenario where variables change over time, randomized clinical trials are not the best way to answer questions."

Using their computer model, Lee and colleagues found that a strategy that included vaccination was optimally cost-beneficial in 95 percent of their 1,000 runs. Non-vaccination became optimal when the probability of contracting the flu was less than 6.3 percent - a very mild flu season.

The study also found that treatment of flu patients with antiviral medications was optimal in 85 percent of the runs. Surprisingly, the older antiviral rimantidine was
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Contact: Amy Adams
amyadams@stanford.edu
650-723-3900
Stanford University Medical Center
19-Aug-2002


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