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Japan to stockpile new flu drug

Publication Date : 10-01-2014

 

The Japanese government has decided to stockpile T-705, a new drug effective in combating strains of the influenza virus that are resistant to conventional medicine, after the confirmation of such strains in several countries, sources said.

The government is expected to approve the production and sale of the new drug, developed by Tokyo-based Toyama Chemical Co., as early as the spring to enhance its crisis-management system in preparation for a possible pandemic stemming from a new strain of influenza.

Current flu remedies such as Tamiflu and Relenza prevent the flu virus from multiplying by blocking its spread from one cell to another. T-705 prevents the virus from replicating its own genes and growing within cells. As the new drug can block the increase of the virus shortly after it invades a cell, it is expected to be effective against viruses resistant to Tamiflu or Relenza.

Toyama Chemical began clinical trials in 2007 and applied to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry for production and sales approval in 2011. It has also been conducting clinical trials for approval of the drug in the United States, and the U.S. Defense Department has subsidized the company with US$138.5 million.

Drug-resistant strains of the flu virus have been confirmed in Asia and Europe. According to a report by the World Health Organization in 2010, there were more than 200 cases in 20 countries where the H1N1 virus was resistant to Tamiflu. Resistant strains were detected in three of 14 people infected with the H7N9 virus, which was passed on by birds in China in 2013.

“Highly virulent strains resistant to Tamiflu may spread through mutations in the future,” a senior health ministry official said.

As of April 2012, the government had stockpiled doses of Tamiflu and Relenza for 63.1 million people, or 49 per cent of the population, based on an action plan for dealing with new types of influenza. Tamiflu accounted for 86 per cent of the stock. After T-705 is approved, the government stock of the new drug will be about 5 per cent of the Tamiflu level.

The government is likely to caution doctors not to prescribe the drug to pregnant women since T-705 may damage fetuses’ genes.

 

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