SOURCES: Debra Spicehandler, M.D., infectious disease expert, Northern Westchester Hospital, Mount Kisco, N.Y., ; Bruce Hirsch, M.D., infectious diseases specialist, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; American Society for Microbiology, news release, Sept. 6, 2014
SATURDAY, Sept. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new single-dose, injected drug appears safe and effective at helping ease flu symptoms, two new studies show.
The studies included a total of 427 adults who were given one injection of the drug peramivir or a placebo within 48 hours of the start of flu symptoms.
Compared to those given the "dummy" injection, patients who received the drug were symptom-free a median of 22 hours sooner, and fever-free 24 hours sooner, the studies found. Those who got peramivir were also less contagious over the first two days after treatment, the researchers reported.
One expert not connected to the study said the findings were welcome news.
"Influenza is a major cause of illness and deaths," said Dr. Debra Spicehandler, an infectious disease expert at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. "This new research establishing a new treatment to reduce symptoms and therefore spread of the virus is a major breakthrough in the treatment of influenza."
In general, the study found peramivir to be safe and well-tolerated, according to researchers led by Rich Whitley of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and drug maker BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, was to be presented Saturday at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Washington, D.C. Experts note that findings presented at medical meetings are typically deemed preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Peramivir was approved for use in Japan and Korea in 2010. If approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the drug would be the only single-dose and injection flu treatment in the United States.
Each year in the United States, flu causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Another expert said that any drug that can alleviate flu symptoms is welcome, but the best offense against flu is a good defense.
"Hopefully most of us will wash our hands during the flu season and get the flu shot this year, and the shot will be a good match with the virus," said Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y.
While peramivir may be a valuable medicine to have on hand when illness strike, he said the best course is to "try not to get the flu in the first place."
Find out more about the flu at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.