Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first antiviral flu treatment in 20 years.
Xofluza, a one-dose pill, was approved to treat acute uncomplicated influenza (flu) in patients 12 years of age and older who have had flu symptoms for no more than 48 hours. (Read How can you tell if you have the flu?)
"When treatment is started within 48 hours of becoming sick with flu symptoms, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time patients feel sick," said Debra Birnkrant, MD, director of the Division of Antiviral Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a media statement. "Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs."
The most common adverse reactions in patients taking Xofluza included diarrhea and bronchitis, according to the FDA announcement.
"It's great to have another antiviral agent, but it does not replace the need for vaccination," Richard Feldman, MD, director of medical education at Franciscan Health Indianapolis, told WISH-TV. "The best way to fight influenza is to prevent it. This medication does not, on the whole, prevent influenza. Vaccination is still the mainstay of treating and preventing influenza. We really should not lose sight of that."
Flu vaccines are available through primary care physicians and many Franciscan ExpressCare locations.
Prevention goes beyond receiving a flu shot. Reducing the spread of viruses during cold and flu season is key, Dr. Feldman advises.
"Stay away from people that are sick, and advise coworkers to stay home if they have the flu, rather than coming in," said Dr. Feldman, a former Indiana state health commissioner. "It's very highly contagious."