FDA approves first flu treatment drug in nearly 20 years

- Flu season is upon us and the Food and Drug Administration announced it has approved a brand new treatment.

The approval comes in the wake of one of the deadliest flu seasons in four decades. The U.S. Surgeon General was publicly vaccinated last month to set an example as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that an estimated 80,000 people died from the flu last season.

The brand new anti-viral Xofluza is the first and only single-dose medication approved to treat the flu.

Meanwhile, the popular medicine Tamiflu requires five days of medication.

Xofluza reduces the symptoms and duration of the illness and will only work if taken within the first 48 hours of becoming sick. While it is very potent, the risk of side effects, which include diarrhea and bronchitis, is extremely low, according to its maker, Genentech.

Dr. Mark Eisner, vice president of product development immunology, infections disease and ophthalmology at Genentech, said Xofluza is expected to hit pharmacies soon.

“We are working really hard to get it launched and available to patients,” Eisner said. “The next several weeks is what we are planning. … For the last 20 years, we have only one class of medication against the flu and we started to see some resistance to that class. So I think it's really, really important from a public health perspective to have Xofluza available because it provides another tool in the arsenal to treat flu.”

Right now, Xofluza is only approved for patients 12 years or older, but trials are underway for children. Researchers are also looking at whether it could be used to prevent someone from getting sick if they are exposed to a person with the flu.

FOX 5 asked if it would be safe to take Xofluza if a person got the flu vaccine, but still became sick anyway. We were told that would not be an issue.

Xofluza will cost about $150 without insurance.

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