New Drug Could Fight Flu in One Dose

Researchers are hopeful Peramivir will save thousands of lives.

September 6, 2014, 5:47 PM
PHOTO: A doctor holds a flu vaccination syringe in this undated file photo.
A doctor holds a flu vaccination syringe in this undated file photo.
Getty Images

— -- Doctors could soon have a new weapon to fight one of the deadliest viruses in the United States after researchers announced a new drug to treat the flu.

Peramivir, which only needs to be administered once as an intramuscular shot, could be safe and effective at alleviating most flu symptoms, including fevers, if taken within 48 hours of contracting the flu, according to Doctor Rich Whitley of the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who led the research on the new drug.

"If we don't get immunized and we get influenza or if we get immunized and we still get influenza, we need to have anti-viral drugs available for the purposes of therapy and the goal is to keep people out of the hospital and to keep people from dying," Whitley said.

Approximately 36,000 people die and 200,000 are hospitalized because of the flu every year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control.

While vaccines are an effective way of controlling the virus' spread, the formation of new viral strains can outpace the creation of new vaccines.

Whitley's study of 427 adults with flu symptoms found that a single dose of Peramivir significantly reduced flu symptoms within 22 hours and reduced fever within 24 hours, according to a statement released by the American Society for Microbiology.

These results show that Peramivir could be a potentially exciting alternative to existing flu treatments. Tamiflu and Relenza, the two current FDA-approved flu treatments, require two doses per day for five days to do the same thing.

The drug is only in clinical trials and has not yet been approved by the FDA. But doctors are hopeful it can be a powerful weapon against the flu.

The drug "would be a terrific boon ... a wonderful addition that we could have for the amelioration of influenza and its complications," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

"It would give us the opportunity to initiate treatment very, very early. That is one of the hang-ups that we currently have," he said.

If approved, Peramivir would be the first single-dose flu treatment in the United States, but it has already been approved in some countries.

Peramivir was approved in Korea and Japan in 2010. It is estimated that 1 million Japanese patients have received the drug, according to the American Society for Microbiology.

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