The Food and Drug Administration has approved a new drug to treat the flu right as the flu season starts to ramp up.
The agency on Wednesday approved Xofluza, a pill aimed at treating patients 12 years or older who have had flu symptoms for about two days. It is the first anti-flu treatment that has been approved by the FDA in nearly 20 years.
“This novel drug provides an important, additional treatment option,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement Wednesday.
He added that it is still important for people to get their flu shot, which remains the best way to prevent an outbreak of the flu.
[Related: First flu season death was unvaccinated child in Florida]
There are several anti-viral drugs used to treat the flu after symptoms appear within 48 hours.
“Having more treatment options that work in different ways to attack the virus is important because flu viruses can become resistant to antiviral drugs,” said Debra Birnkrant, director of FDA’s Division of Antiviral Products.
The Japanese company Shionogi & Co. will manufacture the new treatment.
Last year, more than 80,000 people died from the flu, and another 900,000 went to the hospital. A record 180 children also died last year from the flu, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu season has started and usually runs through March.