New flu drug may shorten aches and sniffles
September 24, 1997
Web posted at: 7:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT)
BOSTON (CNN) -- It's not a cure for the flu, but a new drug
may save flu suffers a day or two of aching and sniffling,
according to a study in this week's New England Journal of
The drug, which has not yet been approved for use by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, is called zanamivir. A study
found that on average, the drug can shorten the length of a
bout with the flu by one day.
"One day isn't dramatic, but that was the median," said Dr.
Frederick Hayden, a professor of internal medicine and
pathology at the University of Virginia who headed the study.
"For the more severely ill, the net reduction was three days,
and for those treated early, it was 2 to 3 days."
|Dr. Steve Salvatore answers questions about zanamivir
||What's different about this new treatment?|
(553K/25 sec. AIFF/WAV sound)
|Is there a downside?|
(595K/27 sec. AIFF/WAV sound)
|Will this drug be available this flu season?
(247K/11 sec. AIFF/WAV sound)
Zanamivir works by blocking a protein the flu virus needs to
replicate in the body. Researchers found that people who
began taking the drug within 30 hours of the onset of
symptoms had major flu symptoms for four days, compared to
seven days for those taking a placebo.
However, the drug, which worked best when administered
directly to the respiratory tract with an inhaler, did not
lessen the severity of the symptoms.
Zanamivir, tested on 262 adults at 70 locations in North
America and Europe, was found to be effective against both
the A and B strains of influenza. Its maker, Glaxo Wellcome,
paid for the study.
Two other drugs already on the market, amantadine and
rimantadine, also fight influenza A. But if it is approved by
the FDA, zanamivir would be the first anti-flu drug shown to
fight influenza B, which accounts for about 35 percent of the
20 million flu cases in the United States each year.
More studies are being planned during this upcoming flu
season, including tests on high-risk patients, such as those
with asthma, pneumonia and chronic bronchitis, for whom the
flu can mean hospitalization.
One drawback, according to Hayden, is that the drug is
administered by inhaling, which some people may find
Despite its promise, don't expected to seen zanamivir on the
pharmacist's shelf any time soon. After testing is complete,
the drug must still go through the FDA's approval process.
Reuters contributed to this report.