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"I'm very enthusiastic about peramivir for hospitalized patients," but it was compared in a season when many flu cases were at least somewhat resistant to Tamiflu, said Dr. Frederick Hayden, a virus expert at the University of Virginia and a World Health Organization flu consultant.
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Birmingham, Ala., is developing peramivir with Japan-based Shionogi & Co. The U.S. government gave a major grant for its development, and officials have been discussing stockpiling the drug as part of flu pandemic preparedness plans.
Tamiflu, made by Swiss-based Roche Holding AG, and Relenza, made by British-based GlaxoSmithKline, came on the market in 1999. Most people who get swine flu don't need them, but these drugs can help save the severely ill, studies sponsored by Tamiflu's maker suggest.
The first results from a registry of 215 human cases of bird flu around the world show that nearly 90 percent of patients who did not receive Tamiflu or any other antiviral medicine died, compared with only half of those given Tamiflu treatment.
"The earlier it starts, the better," said study leader Dr. Stephen Toovey, a Roche consultant and former employee now at Royal Free and University College of Medicine in London. "Even as far out as eight days after symptom onset, there is still benefit."
Others looked at Tamiflu for ordinary seasonal flu:
Researchers at six hospitals in Toronto monitored 238 intensive care patients during three recent flu seasons. Seventy percent were found to have flu, and one-fourth died within 15 days of diagnosis. Patients were nearly three times more likely to survive if treated with Tamiflu, even though very few of them got it soon after symptoms appeared, said Dr. Allison McGeer of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
About half of 760 people with confirmed flu cases at two hospitals in Hong Kong in 2007 and 2008 were started on Tamiflu within two days. Only 4 percent of them died in the hospital versus 6 percent of those not given an antiviral drug, said Dr. Nelson Lee of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
On the Net:
Swine flu info: http://www.flu.gov/
Medical conference: http://www.icaac.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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