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Study: Experimental drug calms resistant flu

New drug offers relieve from flu misery  
September 25, 1998
Web posted at: 7:09 p.m. EDT (2309 GMT)

(CNN) -- Scientists in San Diego are touting a new type of drug that may make it easier to endure the flu.

The pill, GS4104, is one of two promising experimental drugs in development to ease flu symptoms. The other, zanamivir, is a nasal spray.

Studies funded by GS4104's makers report the drug cuts the duration of the illness by about a third and the symptoms, such as cough and fever, by about 40 percent. Complications such as ear infections and bronchitis were reduced by about half.

"What we found is this study is when we compared GS4104 to placebo, meaning an inactive compound, people who received the GS recovered from their influenza more rapidly," said researcher Dr. John Treanor of the University of Rochester.

With the drug, symptoms of the average flu lasted 2.9 days instead of the usual 4.3 days.

Study participant Matt Holley said the drug quickly ended his flu fever and tamed other symptoms.

"They went away very rapidly, not as quick as the fever, but I'd say two days and I was back to normal," he said.

Drugs to combat the flu are already on the market. They work against the virus influenza A, which causes most cases of flu, but not influenza B.

GS4104 and zanamivir are part of a new class of drugs call neuraminidase inhibitors that can fight influenza B. The drugs bind with an enzyme released by the flu, preventing it from spreading to infect healthy cells. Both medications seem to be equally effective.

Taking a dose of GS4104 may also cut the chances of catching flu. In a separate study, only 1 percent of 1,600 volunteers who took GS4104 developed the flu compared with about 5 percent in a similar group who took nothing.

But researchers emphasize the new flu drugs are not designed to replace the flu vaccine. Rather it could help those who don't respond well to the shot or who are unable to get the vaccine.

GS4104, developed by Gilead Sciences Inc. and Hoffman-LaRoche, is expected to be submitted for Food and Drug Administration approval next year.

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