The flu killed 80,000 Americans last year and was responsible for the hospitalization of another 960,000. Then there are those whose symptoms didn’t reach such drastic levels, but who spent many miserable days suffering the effects.
So our concierge family practice doctors in Jupiter, FL, at MD 2.0, were pleased to note that last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the first time in 20 years approved a new drug designed to help alleviate the symptoms of the flu. Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) is a single-dose oral prescription drug intended for patients 12 years of age and older who have been experiencing symptoms for no more than 48 hours.
The difference in Xofluza
Just in time for flu season, Xofluza joins other antiviral treatments currently available, including Tamiflu and Relenza. The difference between Xofluza and other antiviral drugs is in the way it’s administered. It is the only antiviral that can be taken as a single dose to be effective. Others must be taken over several days or inhaled as a powder. While Xofluza did not work any better in clinical trials than its competitors already on the market, it’s the convenience of the single oral dose that sets it apart. The most common reported side effects of Xofluza were 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,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement. “This novel drug provides an important, additional treatment option.” Xofluza was expected to be available “within the next several weeks.”
“Xofluza is unique in that it acts to inhibit replication of the flu virus in the first place, at a step much earlier than the current medications available . . . which only block release of virus that has already been produced from a host cell,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City told CBS News.
Dr. Debra Birnkrant, director of the Division of Antiviral Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, hailed the addition of Xofluza to the arsenal of weapons against the flu.
“Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs,” she said on the FDA’s website.
You still need a flu shot
While the antiviral medications, including Xofluza, can reduce symptoms and help them recede faster than a placebo, they are not an instant curative. Nor do they prevent the flu or prevent you passing it on to others. If you contract the flu, you will still have to endure several days of misery, and you will still be contagious while exhibiting symptoms. So it’s best not to catch it all all.
“[S]easonal 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,” Gottlieb said. “Yearly vaccination is the primary means of preventing and controlling flu outbreaks.”
We concur. Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report showing that less than 40 percent of adults in the U.S. received flu shots last winter, the lowest rate in seven years and probably one reason that last season’s flu outbreak was the deadliest since the 1970s. Of the 183 children who died last year, 80 percent had not been vaccinated.
You can help boost your immunity by exercising, eating healthfully, washing your hands often, and getting enough sleep, but there’s still no better way to prevent the flu, or lessening symptoms and its complications, than by receiving a flu shot.
“Yearly vaccination is the primary means of preventing and controlling flu outbreaks,” said Gottlieb.
And if you or your children do come down with the flu, contact us immediately. The sooner you receive Xofluza or other antiviral medications, the better they will work.