FDA Approves New Flu Drug

With a drop in the mercury, cold and flu season inevitably arrives and for older adults, the flu can have serious, even life-threatening complications.  That’s why the FDA approval of a new “first-in-class” flu drug is so exciting.

Wednesday, the drug baloxavir marboxil, trade name Xofluza, won the approval of the FDA to shorten the duration of influenza by about 24 hours.  Xofluza, manufactured by Japanese drug company Shionogi & Co. inhibits the influenza virus’s cap-dependent endonuclease enzyme, unlike Tamiflu which targets the viral neuraminidase protein.  When treatment is started within 48 hours of symptoms, antiviral drugs can shorten the time patients feel sick.  Because viruses can become resistant to drug therapies, having more treatment options is good news for patients.

Xofluza is the first new antiviral influenza treatment in 20 years.  It requires only a single pill which helps protect against the spread of drug-resistant viruses when people don’t take their full course of prescribed drugs.   Xofluza targets a different enzyme that helps prevent flu viruses from reproducing, reducing the severity of symptoms and lowering the risk for severe complications.  It could also help reduce transmission from person to person.

The new antiviral drug is only for use in patients aged 12 or older and will cost $150; coupons and health insurance may lower this price.   Xofluza has been demonstrated to work against both A and B strains of the flu virus and because the drug blocks the virus’s ability to replicate itself, currently circulating flu strains should not yet have any resistance to the new antiviral. The most common side effects of the drug are diarrhea and bronchitis.

Flu season is already underway and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months gets an annual influenza shot before the end of October to prevent and control outbreaks.    Last year influenza killed approximately 80,000 Americans.  This new treatment should not be considered a replacement for getting an annual flu shot.

Learn more about influenza complications for older adults as well as symptoms and prevention measures by following this link to the CDC website.