Xofluza, a new flu drug that has been shown to kill the flu virus in 24 hours with one dose, was approved Friday in Japan after a successful human trial.
The fast-track approval from Japan’s health ministry allows maker Shionogi & Co. to begin selling the drug in Japan, but it is unlikely to be available before May because no price has yet been set for it by the national insurer, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Unlike existing flu medicines like Tamiflu that try to block viral material from infecting other cells, Xofluza instead stops the virus from hijacking healthy cells to replicate itself, which kills it off sooner. Patients not only seem to recover faster, but are also less likely to pass the virus on to someone else when Xofluza is used, according to maker Shionogi.
The idea for the new flu drug came from HIV drugs currently on the market that work the same way. Nearly 2,500 compounds were tried and rejected before Xofluza was developed, the WSJ reported.
Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche already has the license to sell Xofluza outside Japan, including in the U.S., but U.S. approval is expected to take until 2019.
Tamiflu, the current go-to antiviral drug for flu treatment, takes three days to kill the virus and must be taken twice a day for five days.
This flu season has been the worst since a swine flu pandemic in 2009. The vaccine made for this season has been largely ineffective in treating the prevalent strains this year.
Other companies such as AstraZeneca PLC and Johnson & Johnson are testing new flu drugs to treat influenza A, which is most common in humans, but are several years away from having drugs ready for market, the WSJ reported.
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