New drug kills flu virus in one day, gets fast-tracked to approval

Welcome news as the flu pandemic begins to subside.

A woman wearing a surgical mask to prevent the transmission of airborne infection walks in Westminster on July 30, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
A woman wearing a surgical mask to prevent the transmission of airborne infection walks in Westminster on July 30, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Tamiflu (generic: oseltamivir), the go-to drug for combatting influenza has a new challenger


Japanese drugmaker Shionogi has announced that test results are in: its drug kills the flu virus in 24 hours. With one pill. 

The drug, named Xofluza (generic: baloxavir marboxyl), was recently granted accelerated approval by the Japanese government after trials of the drug showed great promise. 

In a year that’s seen an epidemic—even pandemic—of flu cases, some resulting in unexpected deaths of people not in high-risk groups, the influenza outbreak in the United States this year has reached levels not seen since the swine flu epidemic of 2009. 

Though it likely won't be for sale until May 2018 in Japan and not in the United States until 2019 or very late 2018, it could be a sign of better news to come. 

How does it work?

The key is that by inhibiting the enzyme that the flu virus needs in order to replicate, it kills the virus within a human in 24 hours. The symptoms continue for about the same amount of time as when Tamiflu is used, however, but they’re lessened and begin to go away faster. And both drugs lessen the effects of the flu versus no drug at all. 

Tamiflu-maker Roche was involved in the study and development so it will be the company marketing this, in addition to Tamiflu—at least in the United States.

Given that the flu vaccine this season was only 36% effective, this is especially welcome news. 

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