Health

New FDA-Approved Flu Drug Could Cut Sick Time in Half

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Now that flu season is starting, we’re taking extra precautions to stay healthy. After all, there’s nothing worse than being bedridden for a week because you can’t breathe, are coughing nonstop, and are cold despite wrapping yourself in 50 million blankets. Luckily, there’ll soon be a new flu medicine on the market to help with that. 

Called Xofluza, it’s the first flu drug to be released in almost 20 years, and it will be available to consumers within a few weeks. The drug works best if administered within a day or two of flu symptoms appearing, as this will help the drug stop the virus from spreading. Xofluza will be a pill for individuals over the age of 12. As with any medication, there are some potential side effects to be aware of, primarily diarrhea and bronchitis.

“With thousands of people getting the flu every year, and many people becoming seriously ill, having safe and effective treatment alternatives is critical. This novel drug provides an important, additional treatment option,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib, MD, said in a statement.

Flu medicines are used to speed up recovery once a person has contracted the influenza virus, and Xofluza seems to be better than most other drugs at hurrying along the healing. In a 2016 to 2017 study, researchers monitored 1,436 people with the flu in the US and Japan. The experimenters found that taking Xofluza reduced sick time from 3.3 days to just 2.5, as well as cutting the average length of fever almost in half from 42 hours to only one day. Viral shedding, which is when the virus exits its depleted host cell to infect other cells, was also shortened from three days to one when participants took Xofluza.

Once Xofluza is released to the market, it will join a host of other flu medicines, like Tamiflu, which also comes in pill form, Relenza, which is inhaled, and peramivir, which is injected. 

“While there are several FDA-approved antiviral drugs to treat flu, they’re not a substitute for yearly vaccination,” Dr. Gottleib of the FDA continued. “Flu season is already well underway, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October, as seasonal flu vaccine is one of the most effective and safest ways to protect yourself, your family and your community from the flu and serious flu-related complications, which can result in hospitalizations.”

It takes the body about two weeks to build up enough antibodies to protect against the influenza virus, so now would be a good time to get your flu shot if you haven’t. It would be a shame to be cooped up at home just as all the fun cold-weather activities begin.

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