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Generic Drugs May Save Lives Amidst Flu Pandemic

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

An extensive review has led immunization expert Dr David Fedson to suggest that generic drugs may be save lives amidst the current flu pandemic. Shortages of vaccines and ineffective or unavailable antiviral agents are not accessible to 90 percent of the world’s population. Dr. Fedson recommends urgent research to determine if available generic drug that fight inflammation could be used to manage the flu pandemic.

The suggestion that generic drugs, including cholesterol-lowering medications, came from Dr. Fedson just after the World Health Organization declared a flu pandemic. Scientists, not involved in immunology research, might provide answers about how the human body responds to the flu virus.

Dr. Fedson says, "For example we still don't understand why so many young adults died in the 1918 pandemic, while the death rate for children was much lower. I believe this is because researchers have focused on studying the actual virus rather than how these particular hosts – the children and young people – responded to the virus”. Fedson adds that studying the molecular characteristics of viruses is informative, but “have failed to explain the system-wide effects that flu has on people who contract it”.

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The theory is that generic drugs could save lives during a flu pandemic because generic drugs used to treat cholesterol and diabetes can mediate lung injury by mediating cell signaling pathways. "Cell signaling pathways play essential roles in the ability of cells to perceive and correctly respond to their microenvironment. They form the basis of development, tissue repair, immunity and normal tissue functions”, explains Dr. Fedson.

Dr. Fedson also observes in his analysis that there is no plan in place to get pandemic flu vaccines to the majority of the world’s population who do not produce their own vaccines. Supplies of generic drugs are more available, compared to antiviral drugs that would only reach one percent of the population in countries that do not produce flu vaccine.

Fears also exist that so much focus on swine flu might be distracting from developing strategies to treat avian, of bird flu, which is also on the rise. International influenza expert and journal editor Dr Alan Hampson says, "Wouldn't it be a terrible irony if bird flu suddenly achieved the ability to transmit readily in humans, possibly aided by widespread infection of swine flu and that fact that most of our resources are focusing on that"

Hampson says the World Health Organization is urging all countries to prepare for pandemic influenza outbreaks. Dr. Fedson is urging researchers to explore the use of available generic drugs to save lives amidst the current flu pandemic, and to boost preparedness for other influenza mutations.

Reference: http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/15/3/365.htm