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Tamiflu: Your Questions Answered

In Rhode Island and across the country, this has been the worst flu season in nearly a decade. The number of prescriptions for Tamiflu® has increased as a result. Not sure what Tamiflu is or how it’s used? Here’s what you need to know.

What is Tamiflu and how does it work?
Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is an oral medication that is used to treat and prevent the seasonal influenza (flu) virus. It reduces flu symptoms and the length of the flu by about one day. It also helps prevent complications from the flu. Tamiflu is NOT a replacement for the annual flu shot. 
  
Are there side effects? 
The most common side effects are nausea, vomiting, headache, trouble sleeping (insomnia), diarrhea, and pain. If you develop any changes in behavior or have a skin or allergic reaction, it’s important to contact your doctor right away. 

Is Tamiflu for everyone? 
Tamiflu has only been proven effective if taken within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms AND if you have been diagnosed with the flu through a rapid influenza diagnostic test.  You should not take this medication if you have hereditary fructose intolerance. 

How should I take Tamiflu? 
This medication is available in capsules and liquid (suspension) form in a tutti-frutti flavor. If taste is an issue with the liquid form, many pharmacies offer a flavoring service at an additional cost. For treatment of the flu, Tamiflu is taken twice daily for 5 days. For prevention of the flu, Tamiflu should be taken once daily for 10 days. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend taking the medication for longer. Make sure you are taking the medication with a light snack to decrease side effects. 

What should I do if my doctor doesn’t give me a prescription for Tamiflu?
Your doctor may decide that you may not benefit from Tamiflu or that it may cause more problems than it solves. In that case, medications that don’t require a prescription—such as ibuprofen (for example, Advil® and Motrin®) and acetaminophen (Tylenol®)—may help you feel better.

Can I take Tamiflu if I’ve had the flu vaccine? 
Yes. The only exception is if you received the live version of the flu vaccine (nasal form) in the past two weeks. 

Is Tamiflu covered by my BCBSRI plan?
Generic Tamiflu (oseltamivir) is covered on most BCBSRI plans, and the brand name is covered on some plans. To check the coverage on your plan, please log in to bcbsri.com and go to My Pharmacy Benefits Manager.