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How does Tamiflu work?

Written and medically reviewed by Dorcas Morak, Pharm.D

Flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. It is estimated to have affected 9 to 41 million Americans yearly between 2010 and 2020. Its symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and body aches. Flu makes people more susceptible to a more severe respiratory tract infection like pneumonia. Though flu may be mild and self-resolving, other times it may be severe and needs an antiviral agent called Tamiflu.

What is Tamiflu and its Indications?

Tamiflu is a brand name of oseltamivir phosphate – an antiviral medication that is prescribed for the treatment and prevention of influenza A and B viral infection. Tamiflu makes flu infection less severe and shortens the duration of the infection by a few days. It is safe and approved for use in adults and children that are at least 2 weeks old.

Tamiflu is a prescription-only medicine. You can’t buy it over the counter. Remember not all cases of flu warrant the use of Tamiflu.

Is Tamiflu an Antibiotic?

Tamiflu is not an antibiotic. Antibiotics are indicated for the treatment of bacterial infections. Rather, Tamiflu is an antiviral medication. You should note that flu is not a bacterial infection, which is why an antibiotic is not used for their treatment. Your doctor may however prescribe an antibiotic if there is a bacterial superinfection.

How does Tamiflu Work?

Tamiflu inhibits the enzymes called neuraminidase; stops the release of the virus from the cells and prevents its movement across the cells of the respiratory tract. That enzyme is found on the influenza virus surface and it is responsible for its movement around the respiratory tract. It treats flu by arresting the virus multiplication.

Tamiflu can shorten the duration of flu symptoms. Usually, flu last 3 – 7 days but Tamiflu can shorten it by 1 – 2 days.

How Much Should I Take?

Tamiflu is usually prescribed 75mg twice daily for five days for adults. You may be prescribed oseltamivir phosphate for a longer period depending on your condition. Ensure you complete your dose to prevent resistance. Tamiflu works better if the first dose is taken within 48 hours of the onset of the symptoms. People with an increased risk of severe symptoms are prescribed Tamiflu irrespective of when the symptoms started. Such people include those with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, immune-compromised patients, and pregnant woman.

Common side effects of Tamiflu include abdominal pain, epistaxis, conjunctivitis, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, etc.

Furthermore, there may be a serious drug interaction with Tamiflu by clopidogrel, probenecid, pretomanid, etc. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about other drugs you are taking.

Is Tamiflu a Substitute for the Flu Vaccine?

No, Tamiflu is not a substitute for the flu vaccine. The flu shot is a more reliable way to protect yourself against flu. The CDC recommends it every flu season for anybody older than 6 months.

How much does Tamiflu Cost?

Without health insurance, Tamiflu can cost as high as $250 depending on where you are getting it and the brand. However, you can save up to 88% on your medication with a free rxless prescription discount coupon which is valid at over 70,000 pharmacies nationwide including CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aids.