A new flu treatment is not exactly like waving a magic wand at someone with the flu and curing them, but it does look like it will make sufferers better much faster. The single-dose injectable drug, Peramivir, is already in use in other countries as a new way to fight flu symptoms.
The influenza or flu virus is one of the most deadly that affects the United States and other countries. In sheer numbers, it is far more deadly each year than Ebola has been through history. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 36,000 people die on average per year in the U.S. from flu. Approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized annually. Then, add to that the economic impact of days off work and school – there would be a significant impact to shaving even a day off the flu cycle for most patients.
Peramivir, which is currently in clinical trials and not approved by the U.D. Food and Drug Administration for wider use, has just completed two U.S. studies. In general, the research found Peramivir safe and well tolerated by users, according to the research team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Within the first 48 hours of the onset of the flu, 427 adults received an injection of Peramivir or a placebo. Patients who received the medication were relieved of their flu systems an average of 22 hours sooner that those who received the placebo. Their temperatures returned to normal 24 hours faster than the non-recipients of the drug. In addition, the patients who received the Peramivir were less contagious within a couple of days.
Noting that the flu continues to be a major cause of illness and deaths each year, Dr. Debra Spicehandler, who is an infectious disease expert at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., pointed out that the research study showing a new way that can reduce symptoms, fight the flu virus and help contain it from spreading “is a major breakthrough in the treatment of influenza.”
The U.S. National Institutes of Health along with drug maker BioCryst Pharmaceuticals funded the study. It was presented today at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Washington, D.C.
Once approved for use in the U.S., Peramivir looks like it will be valuable to have on hand or receive when the flu strikes to shorten the illness period. Health experts caution that drugs that alleviate flu symptoms and enable people to recover faster are welcome, but they urge that avoiding the flu entirely is better. Getting a flu shot, washing hands regularly and other traditional preventative measures that allow one to avoid the flu altogether make more sense. Avoidance is particularly important for those at high risk for complications or who care for others.
Peramivir was approved for use in Japan and Korea four years ago. If approved by the FDA, the injectable medication would be the only single-dose and injection flu treatment available in the U.S. and a new way to fight the flu in the future.
By Dyanne Weiss