MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Flu season is officially underway. While everyone’s bracing for impact following last year’s brutal flu season, for the first time in 20 years, there’s a new antiviral flu treatment.
This new treatment, Xofluza, was just approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Until now, Tamiflu was the only other option for people who are diagnosed with the flu. However, Xofluza claims to work differently. Unlike other antiviral drugs on the market like Tamiflu, you only have to take Xofluza once. Xofluza claims to lessen the symptoms and duration of the flu.
It’s approved for people ages 12 and up, and recommended to take the single-dose within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Xofluza can also potentially reduce the amount of time a person is sick by more than a day and could possibly stop the spread of flu faster than Tamiflu. But despite the new drug, doctors are still urging patients to get their flu shots.
“It’s important to remember that treating with antiviral is not what’s key here. It’s getting prevention and the vaccinations. Those are what prevent hospitalizations and death. So that’s what CDC goes back to every single time. Medications are wonderful for treating outdoors, but prevention is key to begin with, and that should never be substituted with I’m not going to get my flu vaccine because there’s medications out there. That’s not how we think,” said Michele Lively, nurse practitioner at Conway Medical Center.
However, doctors say this new treatment comes with a big price tag. The wholesale cost to pharmacies is about $150. With insurance, it could be as low as a $30 co-pay, and for people without insurance, there are coupons available that can help with cost.
It’s important to note doctors say every flu season is unpredictable and want to remind you that these drugs are not a substitute for the flu shot.
“We really don’t know how the flu’s going to be from year to year. The flu is an everchanging virus. And the CDC tracks this the best that they can. It is not a reportable disease, so they have to do a lot of estimations based on other reportable symptoms. And each year they estimate between 9 and 35 million cases of flu. Of those, about 9 percent which is between 140 and 700,000 are hospitalized, and then there again, flu related deaths can vary from year to year depending on the severity of cases. Some years it can be as low as 12,000 and as high as 56,000. But needless to say, none of us want to have that happen,” said Lively.
Experts say the new antiviral flu treatment is expected to soon hit the market in the next few weeks, by mid-to-late November.
“When you know you’re running a fever, even if it’s a low-grade fever, and that’s not normal for you and you just generally feel poorly, you’re better off going in, seeing your provider, getting checked, because that’s the key in you being able to receive the antivirals if you have it checked soon enough. Unfortunately, if you stay home too long, you may miss that window of opportunity. So I encourage anybody that if you do think you possibly have the flu, you know you’re exposed to somebody who has the flu and then you start feeling poorly, you should definitely get in and have a flu check as soon as possible,” said Lively.