The FDA Approved A Brand New Flu Treatment, But Here's Why You Still Need The Vaccine

by Julia Guerra

Life almost feels like a Hallmark movie once the leaves outside change from mossy green to vibrant red and gold. When the temperatures drop a little lower, and the morning air is brisk against your skin, as beautiful as it seems, these subtle traces of autumn are also tell-tale signs that the most germy time of year is fast approaching. The good news is, the FDA approved a new flu treatment called Xofluza, CNN reports. The bad news is, just because you can pop this seemingly magical pill when you catch the virus, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be getting the actual flu shot. Listen, you don’t have to tell me twice: I’m well aware that stopping by your local pharmacy to get the flu shot is hardly the most exhilarating fall activity when there are apples to be picked and PSLs to be sipped. But 'tis the season to be sniffly, folks. Obviously I can only speak for myself, but personally, I’d rather not risk it.

On Oct. 24, the FDA issued a statement that it approved a new flu medication for the first time in 20 years. The oral medication, called Xofluza, was described by the FDA as an “antiviral flu treatment” that should only be taken by patients 12 years old and over, “who have been symptomatic for no more than 48 hours.” So I guess you could consider this pill a kind of first-responder medication, so to speak: It’s something that should be taken as soon as you notice the onset of flu symptoms. This timeframe is key, according to the FDA, because within the first 48 hours of catching the virus, “antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time patients feel sick,” Debra Birnkrant, M.D., the director of the Division of Antiviral Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, explained in the administration’s original statement.

To test the efficiency of Xofluza, as per CNN, two clinical trials chose over 1,800 patients at random who were experiencing flu symptoms, and split them into three groups. The first group was given Xofluza within the first 48 hours of experiencing the virus; the second group was given a placebo treatment; and patients in the third group were prescribed other antiviral treatments that had already been approved by the FDA. The first clinical trial, according to CNN, found that flu symptoms in patients who took Xofluza were reduced in the first 48 hours of the virus, as opposed to the symptoms in patients who popped a placebo. During the second clinical trial, Xofluza proved to be just as effective at alleviating symptoms as the other FDA-approved antiviral treatments.

Because of the treatment's success, Andrew Villani, senior manager of corporate relations at Xofluza’s U.S. distributor, Genentech, told CNN that this new medication is expected be available across the United States in a matter of weeks. In terms of cost, the new medication is pretty pricey, which, IMO, isn’t all that surprising. Without insurance, Xofluza costs $150, according to CNN. However, if your health care provider does offer coverage, and you combine said coverage with the coupon that’s available on Xofluza's website, you could pay as low as $30 out of pocket, as per the news outlet. Personally, I'd take that deal.

Honestly, the fact that the FDA approved this new flu treatment speaks volumes, especially considering it’s been not one, but two decades since it last gave its stamp of approval. At least for me, it’s a comfort to know that scientists and researchers are continuously making great progress to find ways to tackle the flu and alleviate symptoms before they even have a chance to spiral out of control. But, again, antiviral medications come in handy when you’ve already caught the flu; they don't take the place of the actual flu vaccine, which strengthens your immune system against the virus before it makes its way into your system.

It’s excellent to have more and more prescriptions at your disposal to beat the flu as early as possible, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends everyone over 6 months of age get vaccinated by the end of October (though you can still get the flu vaccine whenever it becomes available to you during the season). It's a drag, I know — I'm pretty sure no one on this planet enjoys getting a shot. But what's cool about the flu shot, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, says, is that the vaccine is kind of a two for one deal: It prevents your body from getting the flu, and it works hard to alleviate symptoms, should you still catch the virus.

“The flu vaccine is typically about 40 to 50 percent effective in the majority of flu seasons,” Glatter tells Elite Daily, noting that it also “reduces the severity of symptoms and associated complications if you do come down with the flu.” In other words, the flu shot may not be 100 percent effective, but it’s definitely more effective than the alternative, aka not getting vaccinated at all and letting nature run its germ-infested course.

So now that you know there's this awesome new flu treatment coming your way this season, here's a friendly reminder that flu vaccines are also at your disposal. Papatya Tankut, vice president of pharmacy affairs at CVS Pharmacy, tells Elite Daily that all CVS Pharmacies and Minute Clinics offer flu shots every day, seven days a week, with no appointment necessary. Most local pharmacies offer this service as well, and you can also stop by any urgent care clinic, or make an appointment with your doctor to get the shot, too. Think of it this way: A whopping 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population catches the flu every year, according to the CDC Foundation. The shot will help to prevent the onset of this serious illness before you even have to consider taking Xofluza.