“This new drug called Baloxavir is the first new drug we’ve had in almost 20 years,” says Andy Pavia, MD, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at University of Utah School of Medicine and Primary Children’s Hospital.
Baloxivir—also referred to as Xofluza—is a brand new flu treatment that works differently than previous drugs such as Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and Zanamivir (Relenza).
“This gives us a brand new tool, and there’s some indication that it has some unique strengths above the older drugs,” says Dr. Pavia.
Dr. Pavia says a new flu drug is something they’ve been wanting for a very long time because the older drugs have the risk developing resistance—leaving medical providers with no other treatment options.
“All viruses mutate quickly and they can become resistant to drugs. This is a big deal with Hepatitis and HIV, and it’s true with flu as well. The way we get around that with most viruses is to use two drugs or three drugs that work by different mechanisms of action, and then you get much more rapid killing of the virus, and it prevents emergency resistance. We couldn’t do that before with the flu, now in the future we have the potential of investigating that as a strategy,” explains Dr. Pavia.
Most people don’t need treatment to get better when they have the flu—it’s just a waiting game—but for those at high-risk, it’s a different story.
“Then treatment becomes very important because they’re at risk of ending up in an ICU, developing pneumonia, even dying from the flu,” says Dr. Pavia.
If someone needs treatment for influenza, it’s best to seek medical care as soon as possible. With Baloxavir, it’s recommended to take the pill within the first 24 hours.
“If you wait until you’ve been sick for 3 days, you’re going to have to wait for your body to get you better,” says Dr. Pavia.
So far, this new drug is approved by the FDA for those older than 12 who are otherwise healthy.
“As far as Baloxavir is concerned, there’s a lot that we don’t know yet. We know enough to know that it’s safe and effective, but how to use it best in the people who are sickest, there’s more work to be done with that,” says Dr. Pavia.
Dr. Pavia reminds everyone that flu prevention is better than any flu treatment—and the best way to prevent getting sick in the first place is with an annual flu shot.
“These drugs don’t replace a flu shot, they can’t prevent you from getting the disease, and they only reduce the misery from 4-5 days to 3-4 days,” says Dr. Pavia.
This new flu drug is expected to be in pharmacies within the next couple of weeks.