It’s been almost two decades since the FDA approved a pill to treat influenza. It was oseltamivir, also known as Tamiflu. Last week, the agency approved a new flu pill, Xofluza.
What Is the Story on Xofluza?
Baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza) can be taken by teens and adults who have had flu symptoms for less than two days. The pill shortens the duration of flu symptoms by more than a day. Patients take just one dose instead of a series of doses, so it is more convenient than other flu treatments.
This new medication works on a completely different viral enzyme than Tamiflu and Relenza. Consequently, flu viruses have not yet developed resistance. Side effects of baloxavir include diarrhea, bronchitis, nausea and sinusitis.
Public health officials stress that antiviral drugs do not replace vaccination as the first line of defense against influenza. Last year, influenza put 900,000 Americans in the hospital. More than 80,000 died of complications.
What Should You Do About the Flu?
Because the new pill, like older flu medicines, is most effective when taken with the first 48 hours of symptoms, you should discuss it with your doctor now, before flu season starts. In addition, it makes sense to continue careful hand washing throughout the season, possibly combined with wearing a face mask. (You can learn more about the relevant research on these preventive approaches here.) In addition, you might consider drinking green tea or even gargling with it, as we describe here. Be sure to get the sleep you need, and keep your vitamin D levels up. And if you do come down with influenza, consider taking Xofluza early so you can recover quickly. Don’t count on acetaminophen (aka APAP or paracetamol), since it does not work well to relieve flu symptoms.