Researchers delivered a double dose of good news on Monday in the fight against flu: successful tests of what could become the first new flu medicine in a decade, and the strongest evidence yet that such drugs save lives, not just shorten illness.
A single intravenous dose of the experimental drug, peramivir, cleared up flu symptoms as well as five days of Tamiflu pills did, a large study in Asia found. An IV treatment is badly needed because many sick people can’t swallow pills and because illness hinders the body’s ability to absorb oral medicines.
Several other studies showed the value of treatment with Tamiflu. In one study of hundreds of people stricken with bird flu around the world, half of those given Tamiflu survived, while nearly 90 per cent of those not given flu medicines died. Other research showed Tamiflu improved survival from regular seasonal flu, too.
“There has been an accumulation of evidence over time that the antiviral drugs can save lives,” and the new studies confirm that hope, said Nancy Cox, flu chief at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Results were reported today at an American Society for Microbiology conference in California. It is the first big meeting of infectious disease specialists since the new H1N1 swine flu emerged in April.