New flu medicine may be better at fighting old viruses

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – Flu season has officially started, and with it, a glut of commercials advertising the newest treatment: Xofluza. Xofluza is an antiviral, much like Tamiflu, that was approved by the FDA last year. We were curious why doctors would prescribe one over the other and decided to take a deep dive into how they work, their similarities, differences and any possible side effects these drugs have.

Both medicines are antivirals

Antivirals reduce the ability for a virus, like the flu, to multiply. Tamiflu and Xofluza do this in different ways, but they both have the same end result. The Center for Disease Control considers antivirals the “second line of defense” when fighting an infection. Vaccines are still considered the first line.

The classic antiviral: Tamiflu

You’re probably familiar with Tamiflu. It was first approved by the FDA in 1999 and is listed as one of the most basic medications needed for a healthcare system by the World Health Organization.

It works by blocking the enzyme neuraminidase. By blocking this enzyme, the flu virus has a harder time breaking away from infected cells and spreading through the body.

The new antiviral: Xofluza

Xofluza is the result of research conducted 40 years ago by University of Texas professor Dr. Robert Krug. Unlike Tamiflu, Xofluza works by preventing a virus from replicating. Without the ability to replicate, the virus cannot spread. Because Xofluza fights the flu differently than Tamiflu, it might be more effective at fighting older strains of the flu virus.

Similarities and differences

Both drugs make symptoms less severe, can reduce recovery time by two days and must be taken within 48 hours after flu symptoms begin.

With Tamiflu, you must take a dose, twice a day, for five days. Xofluza only has to be taken once.

Tamiflu can help prevent the flu if you take it before symptoms begin. Doctors may prescribe it for family members of sick patients.

Side effects vary between the two drugs. Tamiflu can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches. Xofluza can cause diarrhea and bronchitis.

Finally, there’s the cost. Xofluza is twice as expensive as generic Tamiflu. Name-brand Tamiflu, however, is a bit pricier than Xofluza, costing about $30 more.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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