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Maharashtra Mulls New Drugs To Fight Swine Flu

The rise in the number of swine flu deaths has prompted the state government to approach the Union government to procure novel anti-viral drugs ‘Peramivir’ and ‘Baloxavir’ to reduce the casualty count. Currently, oseltamivir, popularly known as Tamiflu or Fluvir, is the only drug of choice to treat the contagion.

The state government’s technical committee, in a meeting held on April 22, has advised the use of the new drugs for patients who are battling virus-induced complications and not responding to oseltamivir.

As many as 136 people have succumbed to the virus-induced complications in the state in the last four months as against six deaths during the same period last year. Over 1,440 people have been diagnosed with the infection in the state, mainly in Nagpur, Nashik, Mumbai and Pune during this period.

Confirming the development, senior public health expert Subhash Salunkhe, head of the state’s technical committee on communicable diseases, said, “We want to use the new drugs, Peramivir and Baloxavir, in select patients suffering from swine flu in Maharashtra. Both drugs are potent antivirals and more effective in dealing with high viral loads. The objective is to check the rising swine flu death count in the state.”

Salunkhe said, “Both drugs are currently not available in the Indian market which is why we have to approach the Union government to procure them. Once procured, we will frame guidelines for their rational use. Only patients with high viral load, and not responding to the first line treatment of oseltamivir, will be put on the new drugs.”

Salunkhe said, “Scientists at the Pune-based National Institute of Virology (NIV) have made it clear that the virulence level of the virus remains the same. However, patients coming late for treatment and those with underlying medical conditions and in a bad shape can be considered for the new drugs.”

Infectious diseases expert Bharat Purandare said, “The trials of oseltamivir have found the drug efficacious mainly in non-complicated swine flu patients. We need drugs like Peramivir, which is administered to patients intravenously (IV) and is found effective in swine flu patients with complications. Oseltamivir is an oral drug.”

With 36 deaths, Pune has the highest number of swine flu-related casualties in the state, followed by Nashik (29), Nagpur (23) and Mumbai (13).

Sanjeev Wavare, assistant medical officer of health, Pune Municipal Corporation, said, “Not all 36 people who died here are residents of Pune city. Most were referred to hospitals in the city for higher medical treatment of swine flu. Only 16 patients were local residents. ” – Times of India

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