Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Japanese officials approved the single-dose drug, known as Xofluza, for use in that country. In a clinical trial, Japanese and American patients who took the drug when they had the flu saw the virus wiped out, on average, in 24 hours.  The drug will be available in Japan in time for next year’s flu season, but not in the U.S. until 2019.

Currently Tamiflu is used widely for shortening the duration of the flu virus in America.  Xofluza works differently by inhibiting an enzyme the flu virus needs to replicate. The drug can work in 24 hours because it inhibits a process known as “cap snatching.” Cap snatching is a mechanism used by viruses to hijack the nucleic acid in living cells that acts as a messenger for DNA, to allow the creation of viral RNAs.  Influenza A is a virus that has RNA (Ribonucleic acid), the genetic material involved in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. Xofluza inhibits the cap snatching and the virus cannot survive.

The FDA requires that drugs must pass animal testing for toxicity before drug makers can apply for FDA approval. From there, they must undergo three phases of human trials to determine safety, effectiveness, dosage, and potential interactions with other drugs; a lengthy process indeed.  Often drugs are approved in other countries far faster than in the U.S.  Japan actually has two other drugs for flu treatment that we don’t have in the U.S. The bottom line for Americans: coming soon, but not too soon.