Besides taking all the right steps to fight the flu, there’s a chance that it still may happen. In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xofluza (baloxavir marboxil) for the treatment of acute uncomplicated influenza in patients 12 years of age and older who have had symptoms for no more than 48 hours.
“This is the first new antiviral flu treatment with a novel mechanism of action approved by the FDA in nearly 20 years.” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. The first line of defense, however, is getting the flu vaccination as early as possible in the flu season, as it takes two weeks to become effective.
Why is this announcement big news?
The 2017-18 flu season was one of the deadliest in four decades, with more than an estimated 900,000 hospitalizations and 80,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Xofluza (pronounced “ZOH-FLU-ZAH”) gives healthcare providers a new option for treating flu once it’s diagnosed in people ages 12 and up.
What’s the difference between Xofluza and Tamiflu?
Tamiflu was formerly the only option for people diagnosed with flu to help make symptoms less severe and shorten their duration. Tamiflu requires patients to take two doses a day for about five days. Xofluza, however, only requires a single dose if taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms. Xofluza can also reduce the amount of time a person is sick by more than a day.
Additionally, Xofluza is shown to have fewer side effects than Tamiflu, which has been associated with upset stomachs and headaches, and, in some, delirium and hallucinations. However, in clinical trials Xofluza is shown to cause only mild side effects, such as cold-like symptoms, headaches, and diarrhea.
Will Xofluza work on every strain of the flu?
Genentech, the maker of Xofluza, says the drug was shown to be effective in non-clinical studies against a wide range of flu viruses, including Tamiflu-resistant and avian strains, such as H7N9 and H5N1.
How much does it cost?
If you get the flu, your healthcare provider will determine if Xofluza is right for you, and can write a prescription for it. The price for the drug will vary depending on your pharmacy and insurance plan, but a full dose of the medication is expected to run around $150. Genentech will provide coupons to help reduce the cost to as low as $60 for people who don’t have insurance. For those with insurance, it could be as low as $30. Because it is new, many healthcare centers and pharmacists do not stock, but they can prescribe and order this treatment.