November 18, 2018

FDA approves a new drug to treat influenza

28 October 2018, 04:11 | Silvia Roy

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"With thousands of people getting the flu every year, and many people becoming seriously ill, having safe and effective treatment alternatives is critical", he said, adding the caveat that, while "there are several FDA-approved antiviral drugs to treat flu, they're not a substitute for yearly vaccination".

Flu treatments generally work best if taken within 48 hours of symptoms beginning.

"Tamiflu is given twice daily for five days, whereas the new drug is a single dose and then you are done", she said. It will cost $150 without insurance.

However, the drug will only be administered to patients over the age of 12. It is expected to be available in the United States in the coming weeks.

The peak of flu season is between October through January.

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It's the first new flu treatment in almost 20 years, and it comes after a particularly bad outbreak.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb hailed the new treatment option while also warning that it shouldn't be considered a replacement for a flu shot given that the influenza season is now officially upon is.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, says that researchers found evidence the drug causes some flu strains to become resistant to antiviral medication, similar to how bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics.

The study was funded in part by the company that created the drug, Shionogi & Co. The study was conducted in the US and Japan by Shionogi & Co., Ltd.

And preliminary evidence suggests that Xofluza might be effective against strains of flu that have developed resistance to Tamiflu, though this has yet to be confirmed in clinical studies. "Having more variety is good for a variety of reasons, including that the less medications you have to take, the better the compliance".

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Xofluza works in a new way, by blocking an enzyme the virus needs to copy itself.

From there, the virus spreads and the bad cells start replicating themselves.

Benjamin says the true effectiveness will be evident only over time.

The newly approved drug, baloxavir, is an antiviral like the more widely known Tamiflu. In the US, Xofluza will be manufactured by Genentech, which is owned by Roche, which makes Tamiflu.

One benefit of Xofluza over Tamiflu is its single dose rather than a five-day regimen, and it cuts viral shedding, which could potentially reduce the transmission of the bug.

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How much of an impact will Xofluza have on this year's flu? It depends, according to Deresinski.

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