Will a new flu drug ‘upend treatment’?

The headline on STAT makes a bold statement: “A flu drug—shown to reduce duration of symptoms—could upend treatment in U.S.” The next two paragraphs ramp up the excitement regarding the FDA’s announcement that it has granted priority review to a new single-dose flu drug—baloxavir marboxil—that is “unlike anything else on the market.”

We’ve seen this excitement before. There was a lot of enthusiasm about Tamiflu when it was first introduced. But in all the hoopla about Tamiflu being able to reduce the duration of flu symptoms—by a day!—an important point was lost. Yes, the flu makes you miserable. But the real concern about the flu is that in some populations—in particular children, the elderly, and those with impaired immune systems or other health conditions—the flu can be deadly. Yet there is limited evidence that Tamiflu will prevent flu-related complications, hospitalization, or death.

It would be great if there was a drug that reduced deaths from the flu. But Genentech has provided no evidence that baloxavir marboxil is this drug.

Read the full review of STAT’s story and learn more about the new flu drug in my blog post for HealthNewsReview.org

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