© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

One-Dose Flu Treatment Reduces Symptoms But No Substitute For Vaccine

Nurse Nicole Simpson prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta on Feb. 7, 2018.
David Goldman
Nurse Nicole Simpson prepares a flu shot at the Salvation Army in Atlanta on Feb. 7, 2018.

Doctors will have a new drug in their arsenal to help people fight the flu this year. The Food and Drug Administration approved a new medication Wednesday that combats the flu with one dose.

The newly approved drug, baloxavir, is an antiviral like the more widely known Tamiflu. Both can be given to patients after they start experiencing flu symptoms, but baloxavir attacks the virus in a different way, says University Hospitals’ in Cleveland infectious disease specialist Dr. Amy Edwards.

“Tamiflu is given twice daily for five days, whereas the new drug is a single dose and then you are done,” she said.

Dr. Edwards points out the two drugs share a common problem. “It has to be given early within the first 24 to 48 hours. You have to come in the first days of illness or it’s not helpful.”

In clinical trials on more than 1800 patients, the FDA reports the new drug reduced flu symptoms.

“Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs,” said the FDA’s Dr. Debra Birnkrant.

Edwards adds, people with respiratory issues, such as diabetes or heart disease, could use the extra boost to fight the flu.

“People who are immune compromised or if you have cancer, all of these people are at higher risk for severe complication from influenza so they would benefit the most from going on the medication,” she said.

Edwards adds the drugs are not a substitute for yearly flu vaccination.

“It’s not a magic bullet or cure all. The best treatment is prevention and that means get your flu shot,” she said.