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New Drugs May Attack Flu, but Not in Time

Besides the vaccines aimed at preventing flu, new drugs are on the way to treat it once it strikes. But it is not clear whether they will arrive in time to make a difference in thwarting the H1N1 flu pandemic.

New drugs are needed, researchers say, because there are now only four approved flu drugs that work by only two different mechanisms. And many strains of influenza are already resistant either to the two older drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, or to Tamiflu, a somewhat newer drug.

The H1N1 pandemic strain, or swine flu, is resistant to the two older drugs. There have been only sporadic cases of resistance to Tamiflu so far. But if such resistance spread, there would be only one effective drug left ā€” Relenza, which is less convenient to use because it is inhaled rather than swallowed.

The new drugs closest to reaching the market are probably variations or combinations of existing drugs. At a conference in San Francisco last week organized by the American Society for Microbiology, researchers presented data on some of the new approaches.
 
 

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