National / Science & Health

One-dose flu drug Xofluza gets nod from health ministry

by Tomoko Otake

Staff Writer

Osaka-based drugmaker Shionogi & Co. has announced that the health ministry gave it approval to manufacture and market its new flu drug Xofluza, which requires only a single dose regardless of age.

The drug, which has been approved in tablet form for use against the type A and B influenza viruses, “is highly convenient as it only requires just one dose. It is expected to . . . raise the quality of life for flu patients,” Shionogi said in a statement released Friday.

Xofluza will go on sale as soon as its price is decided by the government, the company said.

Xofluza works by inhibiting an enzyme that flu viruses need to replicate.

Tamiflu, a popular flu drug also known by the name of its main ingredient, oseltamivir, usually needs to be taken twice a day for five consecutive days.

Shionogi sought government approval for Xofluza in October. The drug was approved in just four months by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which introduced the so-called sakigake (fast-track) drug review system in 2015 to allow medicine with high potential to be launched in Japan before other countries.

The new medicine will give doctors more options to fight a disease that kills as many as 650,000 people worldwide annually.

The flu season is currently in full swing in Japan. According to the latest statistics from the ministry, the number of people who visited hospitals and clinics in the week through Feb. 18 was estimated at 1.67 million, which is still high despite leveling off from the weekly peak of 2.83 million logged in mid-January.