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Second flu drug approved

By Samantha Broun for CNN

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Relenza has joined Tamiflu as an approved flu treatment and preventative.

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HONG KONG (CNN) -- The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a second antiviral drug in the battle to prevent a possible flu pandemic.

Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline, will join Roche AG's Tamiflu in U.S. stockpiles for use against a potential flu outbreak.

The U.S. health department said it ordered about 1.75 million courses of Relenza on March 2 and another 2.2 million courses on March 26.

The department has already ordered 22 million courses of Tamiflu, which until the launch of Relenza was the only drug on the market with the capabilities to prevent influenza A and B and also be used as a treatment for people with the infection.

Relenza -- known generically as zanamivir -- was developed in Australia by the antiviral drug discovery company Biota.

The FDA initially approved Relenza as a treatment drug, but on March 29 said it was now recognized as having preventative capabilities also.

Unlike Tamiflu, which comes in capsule form, Relenza is an inhaler.

Countries around the world have been stockpiling both brands of the medication in case the H5N1 avian flu virus changes to a form that spreads easily among people and sparks a global flu pandemic.

The FDA has approved Relenza for adults and children aged 5 and older.

But it is not recommended for patients with lung disorders such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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