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New Single-Dose Flu Drug Can Lessen Symptoms By One Day

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Flu season is ramping up, but there's a new medicine to fight it this year.

In fact, it's the first new drug to treat to the flu in 20 years.

To treat the flu once it starts, there's the standard option of Tamiflu.

"We currently have patients who call for Tamiflu. They want to get better quicker," says Dr. Marc Itskowitz, a primary care physician at Allegheny General Hospital.

Now, there's Xofluza, which was approved by the FDA approved in October.

"This new drug is exciting, because it's the first new drug in 20 years," says Dr. Itskowitz.

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Like Tamiflu, Xofluza must be started in the first 48 hours of illness, and it lessens flu symptoms by one day.

"You're usually bedbound, with no energy, no appetite, so even a one-day improvement is significant," Dr. Itskowitz says.

But, there's an important difference. Instead of a pill twice a day for five days as you would take with Tamiflu, Xofluva is a single two-pill dose.

"We can't yet say it's any better than Tamiflu, but it's certainly going to be easier to take one pill as opposed to 10," he says.

Tamiflu works by keeping the virus from spreading in the body. Xofluza works by preventing the virus from making copies of itself.

It's for people 12 and older, who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

"If we have good availability in local pharmacies, if there's good coverage, I think patients will ask for it, because of the one-dose advantage over the five-day course of Tamiflu," says Dr. Itskowitz.

He hasn't prescribed it yet, but expects to. While it's great to have another choice for treatment, he says it's better to try to prevent getting sick in the first place.

"It's much better to prevent the flu than to wait until you get it, and then try to treat it," he says.

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