Is Flu the Next Pandemic? - Episode 20

Future Directions for Managing COVID-19 and Influenza

George Loukatos, MD, shares clinical pearls for the management of the SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses.

George Loukatos, MD: My understanding is that now, as we scrambled to find a solution for determining between COVID-19 and flu or coinfection with both from a diagnostic standpoint, there are treatment modalities in development for the ability to treat both COVID-19 and flu at the same time. I’m not familiar with what stages they’re in as far as getting to market, but as a clinician, ultimately it will boil down to how readily available are these medications and also the cost. It’s important for me as a clinician to make sure that my patient’s pharmacy bill is low, and with Tamiflu having gone generic now, that’s a big driver in whether I would use a combo medication. It could significantly cost the patient hundreds of dollars more. If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that pharmaceutical companies and diagnostic companies can do a good job of getting things to market quickly, but the availability tends to be a different story. We’ll see what comes down the pipeline. We’re trying to stay up-to-date with all of that. For a clinician, sometimes the more established medications, even if you’re taking a couple more pills, if it’s an affordable solution for the patient, we tend to lean that way.

One thing we’ve learned through the pandemic is that the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 and to decrease the morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, just like the flu, is to make sure that we are vaccinating our patients. There’s been a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the pandemic. It seemed to me that with the Delta variant spike, when people were getting really sick, that seemed to be the greatest motivating factor for the patients to get vaccinated who were hesitant at first, when they saw how many people were getting hospitalized and getting terribly ill and dying. As a community physician, it’s important for me to continue providing consistent data and information to my patients about the importance of getting vaccinated, making people understand that yes, you may still get infected with COVID-19 even though you’ve been vaccinated, but your likelihood of dying from it drops dramatically. As a community, it’s important for us to stress getting vaccinated for both COVID-19 and the flu, and we can do a better job. If you look at the flu vaccination rates for this year and last year, they have fallen significantly. It’s important for us to continue to harp on vaccinations and trying to get our patients vaccinated.

With the big box pharmacy and the fact that you’ve got a pharmacy on every corner nowadays, pharmacies are now much more involved in the efforts to vaccinate the populace. As community clinicians, when we refer patients to a CVS or to a Walgreens, or telling them the importance of going to get your vaccine, it’s a team effort as far as providing consistent information that these vaccines are safe and they’re effective. For those clinicians who don’t offer vaccinations in their clinics and partner with these pharmacies, it’s important that we’re sending a unified message that it’s important to go ahead and get the vaccination and to provide information about it to let the patient feel at ease that they’re getting a safe product.

Transcript Edited for Clarity