Here’s How To Save on Tamiflu This Flu Season

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Tori Marsh
Tori Marsh, MPH, is on the Research Team at GoodRx, and is the resident expert on drug pricing and savings.
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This year’s flu season is in full swing, and it’s bad. High flu activity has been reported in all states except for Hawaii and flu season is only halfway over. Prescriptions for Tamiflu (oseltamivir) are 6 times higher nationwide than a year ago, with reported shortages in some cities, according to the FDA.   

Between missed work, doctors visits, and medical costs, the flu can get expensive. Tamiflu is the most commonly prescribed treatment for the flu, but it’s not cheap. Brand versions of Tamiflu can cost more than $160 for a 10-dose pack, and even the generic, oseltamivir, can often cost well over $50.

Surprisingly, despite the surge in demand this year, the average price for Tamiflu has remained steady, actually dropping by about 2% since last year’s flu season.

What are some other options?

The flu might be bad this year, but it doesn’t have to affect your wallet. Here are some ways to save money, and stay healthy, throughout cold and flu season.

There are three options for prescription medications to treat influenza: Relenza, Rapivab and of course Tamiflu.

Relenza is sold as an oral inhaler and has been shown in studies to reduce the duration of symptoms by around 1.3 days. Just like Tamiflu, it appears there is no benefit to taking Relenza if you have been sick for 30 hours or more. Keep in mind that since it is an oral inhaler, Relenza cannot be used in patients with asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions. The lowest GoodRx price for the most common version of Relenza is around $63.95, 18% off the average retail price of $78.44.

Rapivab was approved in 2014 and is the first influenza medication to be administered intravenously. Since it is administered through an IV, Rapivab can target the flu virus and can alleviate your symptoms within 21 hours. The downside to Rapivab? It’s really expensive. Three vials can cost around $1000.

Other than cost, there doesn’t appear to be a difference in efficacy between the three, even though Tamiflu is most widely prescribed. Unsure which one to talk about with your doctor? Look at delivery method and cost at your pharmacy, especially if you have insurance, to help you make your decision.

Is Tamiflu worth it?

Flu medications like Tamiflu, Relenza, and Rapivab may not be your only options to treat the flu, though. Recent data has suggested that maybe Tamiflu isn’t as helpful as we once thought. A recent report found that Tamiflu may only help you recover one day faster, and may only reduce your risk of contracting the flu by 55% – lower than doctors previously thought. At over $50 per prescription for generic oseltamivir, for some, the benefits may not outweigh the cost.  

What does this mean? Don’t forget about the more affordable over the counter (OTC) medications available at your local pharmacy. While OTC flu medications like Advil or DayQuil may not be able to treat the virus, they can help relieve the symptoms. For more information about available over the counter flu medications, see our blog here.

If you’re looking to treat the symptoms of your flu, without visiting your doctor or taking Tamiflu, our friends at Iodine have a tool to help. Iodine’s cold and flu tool compares flu medications to help you decide the best treatment for your symptoms.

Having trouble finding Tamiflu?

At the moment, Tamiflu is not facing an official shortage – there is actually a robust supply nationally. However, prescriptions can experience ‘spot shortages’ in cities, especially when a prescription is in high demand. Some residents in metropolitan cities like Chicago and Los Angeles are experiencing these spot shortages and are having trouble accessing Tamiflu.  

If you’re having trouble finding Tamiflu or its generic, there are a couple of things you can try. First off, call before you go to the pharmacy. You can use GoodRx’s Pharmacy Near Me tool to locate and contact the pharmacies that are closest to you. You can also talk to your doctor about one of the other flu medications – Relenza or Rapivab – as pharmacies might have more of those in stock. And lastly, If you’re in a pinch, you can always try the over-the-counter route to treat your symptoms.

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