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Types of medicine that can help treat the flu include Tamiflu, Flumadine, Symmetrel, and Relenza. These medications are available by prescription only, and can be used to both prevent and reduce the duration of fever and other flu symptoms. The drugs may help prevent the flu if you take them for at least two weeks during the outbreak of flu in your community.

Medication for the Flu: An Overview

Although the flu vaccine is the best flu prevention method, antiviral flu medicine is also available by prescription. Flu medicines include:
 
 
Tamiflu, Flumadine and Symmetrel may be used by adults and children who are 1 year of age and older. The drugs can be used for both prevention and to reduce the duration of fever and other flu symptoms.
 

How Do Flu Drugs Work?

Flumadine and Symmetrel were the first two flu medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These medicines act against influenza A viruses but not against influenza B viruses. These medications inhibit the activity of the influenza virus M2 protein, which forms a channel in the virus membrane. As a result, the virus cannot replicate (make copies of itself) after it enters a cell.
 
In 1999, the FDA approved two additional drugs to fight the flu: Relenza (zanamivir) and Tamiflu (oseltamivir), which were the first of a new class of flu medicine called neuraminidase inhibitors.
 
The surfaces of influenza viruses are dotted with neuraminidase proteins. Neuraminidase, an enzyme, breaks the bonds that hold new virus particles to the outside of an infected cell. Once the enzyme breaks these bonds, this sets free new viruses that can infect other cells and spread infection. Neuraminidase inhibitors block the enzyme's activity and prevent new virus particles from being released. This limits the spread of infection.
 
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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