Dr. David Fedson, a vaccine expert at Aventis Pasteur MSD in Lyon, France, said it is possible inexpensive generic drugs prescribed for other illnesses such as heart disease that are readily available, even in developing countries, could save millions of lives during a pandemic.
He points out that seasonal flu resistance to antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu may make them ineffective in a pandemic.
Fedson is calling for urgent and sharply focused research to determine whether drugs that reduce inflammation or modify the host response -- the way that the body responds to infection or injury -- could be used to manage a pandemic. Fedson said a lot could be learned from the work done on these commonly available generic drugs, which include medicine to lower cholesterol and treat diabetes, by scientists not involved in influenza research.
"Research suggests that giving patients anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory agents such as statins, fibrates and glitazones could help to regulate the cell signaling pathways in patients who have suffered acute lung injury, a common problem with influenza," Fedson told the journal Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses.
"Statins are commonly used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease -- but have also been shown to be effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths from pneumonia."