One pill may soon be able to stop flu viruses in the human body in just one day – a reality that is set to launch in Japan in May.
Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi announced on Friday that it has developed a flu medication called Xofluza otherwise known as baloxavir marboxil, which has been approved for manufacturing and distribution in the country, Forbes reports.
In October 2015, the medicine went through prior review by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Shionogi filed for approval in late 2017.
Compared to the well-known flu drug Tamiflu, which takes two doses each day for five days in order to become effective, one single dose of Xofluza is reportedly all that is needed to treat the virus.
But while the drug has been approved, the Japanese will have to wait a bit longer until national insurance companies set a price for the medication, which may not be until May.
Xofluza functions differently from neuroaminidase inhibitors like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). A flu infection starts when the influenza virus or viruses reach the lungs, and use genetic materials in the cells to reproduce and replicate. It uses an endonuclease enzyme for “cap-snatching,” or stealing the ends of a body’s RNA. After making multiple copies of itself, the viruses employ an enzyme called a neuroaminidase to spread throughout the rest of the body. What Tamiflu and other similar drugs do is to prevent the neuroaminidase enzyme from working successfully. Xofluza, on the other hand, takes an earlier step by blocking the endonuclease enzyme.
This step cuts the virus’ chances of replicating, allowing Xofluza to stop a flu infection sooner than other medicines. In clinical tests, Shionogi’s drug stopped the flu virus in affected patients in a median of 24 hours, compared to 72 hours for oseltamivir. In addition, those taking baloxavir marboxil had lower amounts of viruses compared to the others in the first 3 days of infection.
Xofluza may need one year or even more before it reaches the United States, which, given the casualties in the current flu season, could not be soon enough.