With flu season approaching, there’s talk about vaccines and stockpiling over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to combat flu-like symptoms. But Roche’s Genentech has another idea: let’s talk about prescription antiviral influenza medication.
The company debuted a direct-to-consumer (DTC) TV ad in early October for their influenza drug, Xofluza. The 60-second ad shows a school teacher getting “sucked out” of her classroom as the flu takes a toll on her physical wellbeing. The ad touts that a single dose of oral Xofluza can effectively combat the virus, provided that it’s taken within 48 hours of the first appearance of symptoms.
Increasing awareness of prescription antiviral drugs is one of the aims of this ad campaign, explained a Genentech spokesperson in an email to FiercePharma. Most people who have uncomplicated influenza can use OTC drugs, bedrest and drink lots of fluids to treat symptoms, but vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems can experience symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization.
The original 2018 approval limited Xofluza to treat ‘healthy’ patients over the age of 12 with uncomplicated influenza. Recently, Roche announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a supplemental New Drug Application for Xofluza to treat patients who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications such as sinus infections or pneumonia. Now, people with chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease or those aged 65 and older can be protected from the flu using Xofluza.
Other available prescription antiviral drugs include BioCryst Pharmaceuticals’ Rapivab (peramivir), GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza (zanamivir) and Genentech’s Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate). All three drugs inhibit the enzyme neuraminidase, which prevents the influenza virus from escaping a host cell to infect others. Xofluza has a novel proposed mechanism of action: inhibiting an enzyme that’s essential for viral replication. The goal for all of these antivirals is to stop the spread of the virus which is why each one should be taken by the patient within a tight timeframe.
This consumer-focused TV ad should not only raise awareness about prescription antiviral flu medications, but also draw people’s attention to dosing information and the potential side effects that may occur. Additionally, patients should be aware of the danger of new strains of influenza virus, which may develop resistance to even today’s treatments. These treatments are not intended to substitute for an annual flu vaccination, says the FDA. An annual flu vaccination remains the primary way to prevent and control influenza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, national flu activity is low but severe flu cases have been reported and two pediatric deaths have been confirmed so far.