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A Flu Med with Meager Benefits

The FDA has just okayed an IV flu treatment for children as young as 2 years old. In adults, it shortens flu by a few hours. But what are the side effects?
By Suzanne B. Robotti
Published: September 26, 2017
Last updated: September 26, 2017

With the flu season threatening, the FDA has just approved an IV treatment for the flu for children as young as 2 years old.

Rapivab (peramivir) was first approved for adults by the FDA in late 2014. It joined Tamiflu and Relenza (zanamivir) as questionably useful drugs that shorten a bout with the flu by a scant 12 to 22 hours. (See Need to Know: Tamiflu.) All 3 drugs have to be taken in the first 48 hours of flu symptoms to be effective.

Rapivab has to be taken as a shot or through an IV. The company behind Rapivab Seqirus, claims that’s beneficial because swallowing pills (Tamiflu) can be difficult with nausea, and inhaling a drug (Relenza) is also problematic for those who are stuffed up.

The research doesn’t prove that Rapivab lessens the symptoms of the flu. It’s not much better than a placebo. It’s only been on the market since 2014, so there is a not a lot of clinical data on real-world side effects or benefits.

Adverse event and side effect data take years to collect in the real world because of the way they are reported (or not reported, which is the problem). We don’t know all the possible drug interaction risks. I don’t get the benefit of taking a drug to get back to work one day sooner (come on, no one’s that important!).

Seniors, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems face a serious threat from the flu, and maybe this is an excellent product for them — except we’ve seen no studies on safety for these high-risk populations.

The meager benefits don’t outweigh the unknown risks of drug interactions or adverse events, in my opinion. Perhaps time will prove these flu shorteners (they aren’t remedies) to be both effective and safe. Until then, I’ll wait.

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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