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November 08, 2005

WHO experts on amantadine, rimantadine

The World Health Organization is mulling evidence that it may be possible to combat some strains of bird flu with a class of antiviral drugs that are more plentiful and less expensive than Tamiflu, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The evidence, which these people cautioned was preliminary because it has been identified in a limited number of virus samples, has prompted WHO experts to take a fresh look at the two drugs, amantadine and rimantadine. Until now, scientists thought those drugs, used for years to treat seasonal influenza, were ineffective against the H5N1 avian-flu virus, which they said had developed a resistance to those types of antivirals.

The evidence was reported to WHO by scientists who have been studying the genetic sequence of the virus circulating in China, Indonesia and perhaps other countries. China's chief veterinarian suggested similar findings to reporters recently. The findings, based on lab studies, haven't been clinically tested.

[...] WHO said it has no plans to change its recommendation that governments stockpile Tamiflu, the antiviral made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG that has become the centerpiece of nearly all national preparedness plans. Both amantadine and rimantadine are made by several companies. Forest Laboratories Inc., in New York, makes a branded version of rimantadine, and Alpharma Inc., in Fort Lee, N.J., makes a version of amantadine.

[...] Part of the difficulty faced by WHO disease experts in recommending use of the other antivirals is that it might be difficult, if not impossible, to tell whether a patient was infected with a strain of the virus that was susceptible to the lesser-known class of drugs. Tamiflu, whose generic name is oseltamivir, has been shown to be effective against nearly all strains of the virus. The lesser-known antivirals may be effective only against certain strains found in China and Indonesia.

Source. Roche announced today it plans to increase production of Tamiflu to some 300 million doses/year by the end of 2006.

Posted by dymaxion at November 8, 2005 10:59 AM

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