Oct 28 2009

Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby seeks faster buying of H1N1 flu drugs

Birmingham News

By Mary Orndorff

The government should speed up the process of buying more doses of intravenous anti-viral drugs to treat serious cases of H1N1 flu, Sen. Richard Shelby argued to federal health officials Tuesday.

Doing so would likely benefit Birmingham-based BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, which was last week granted emergency authorization to provide a limited amount of its drug, peramivir, for use on those patients who are hospitalized with the H1N1 virus and are not responding to oral or inhaled drugs.

"With the delays in manufacturing and distribution of H1N1 vaccines, I am concerned that the virus is outpacing our efforts to combat it," Shelby, R-Ala., wrote to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

BioCryst provided 1,200 courses of peramivir and is prepared to complete production on at least 130,000 more, the company said Friday when the emergency authorization was granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Shelby in his letter cited an August report that between 150,000 and 300,000 patients could require treatment in a hospital's intensive care unit with severe cases of H1N1 during this flu season.

"These figures represent pandemic levels and we must make every effort to ensure that physicians have access to the latest and most cutting-edge treatments available to these patients," Shelby wrote.

Also on Tuesday, Nicole Lurie, an assistant secretary for preparedness and response at HHS, told Congress that the agency has supported the development of peramivir since 2007 for intravenous use on hospitalized patients.