Should you take an antiviral drug when you get the flu?

One antiviral medication has drawn criticism, but it's still a treatment option.


Image: © kowalska-art/Thinkstock

Bad case of the flu? Antiviral medications, such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza), may reduce symptoms and help you recover from the flu a day or two earlier. But oseltamivir came under fire a few months ago for a lack of effectiveness.

In June, the World Health Organization (WHO) removed oseltamivir from its list of essential medicines. "Their decision was based on the relatively low effectiveness of oseltamivir in clinical trials and clinical practice. I suspect this is due to a significant number of people who started therapy after their flu symptoms had been going on for more than two days," says Dr. Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist and Harvard Medical School professor.

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