According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) influenza is one of the world’s greatest public health challenges. According to WHO, each year, there are nearly 1 billion cases of influenza across the globe. Among these, 3 to 5 million cases are of a serious nature and lead to 290,000 to 650,000 respiratory deaths. The antiviral drug market has been expanding exponentially in recent decades as the rate of viral infections have been increasing and the world is looking for means to control and in many cases, eradicate such infections. WHO has recently released its Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2023 and aims to protecting people belonging to all countries against the effects of influenza.
Can a viral epidemic be the end of the world as we know it?
Not only influenza, but the world’s population is also under attack from various virus diseases. Unfortunately, the frequency of such outbreaks has seemingly increased over the past decade. For instance, immediately after an Ebola epidemic broke out in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone over 2013–2016, the Americas were under the clutches of chikungunya virus and lead to an extensive international epidemic. This was rapidly followed by Zika virus emergence. Though the true number of Zika virus cases remains unknown, it is estimated that there have been more than 500,000 confirmed or probable cases. In 2015–2016, Yellow fever, a vaccine-preventable disease, made a comeback after the last outbreak in 1980s. It spread in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing 393 deaths and 962 confirmed cases. In spite of having successfully eradicated Yellow fever in the 1950s and 1960s, the virus has been reported to pose public health risk to urban, under-vaccinated populations in the coastal areas of southern Brazil.
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New pathogens such as severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or MERS-Cov have been emerging that have caused international health security agencies become more cautious. Emerging pathogens such as Nipah and Lassa fever underline the continued risks that infectious diseases pose and highlight the challenges that the antiviral drug market has to face and overcome in order to prosper.
New diseases need new treatment
The fact that researchers and scientists are making progress in developing new treatments that can be possible cures to some of these viruses can translate to positive growth indication to the antiviral drug market. For instance, researchers at Stanford have found a possible way to treat the Zika virus by investigating the human cellular factors essential for the propagation of Zika. Hsp70, a type of protein, is required in multiple steps of the lifecycle of Zika virus. By developing an inhibitor drug to block Hsp70, researchers have been able to prevent virus replication. Research is underway to develop drugs that can combat future epidemics thus strengthening the case for antiviral drugs market.
Pharma companies diving head-first into the lucrative antiviral drugs market
Pharmaceutical companies are therefore leading the way with the development of combination therapy that can be more effective at increasing the efficacy of antiviral drugs. Combination therapy is beneficial in case if viral organisms that can develop resistance to antiviral drug. It takes longer for the virus to develop resistance to combination of drugs. Combination therapy is especially helpful in the treatment of HIV as they help to combat the other infections which arise out of HIV. For instance, Cocrystal Pharma, Inc., a biotech company dedicated to discovery and development of novel antiviral therapeutics, announced a clinical trial that will investigate CC-31244, a combination therapy for the treatment of hepatitis C.
The progress of antiviral drug industry can be indicated through the recent move by FDA to expand the indication of Xofluza, the antiviral drug developed for the treatment of influenza. Xofluza, more commonly known as baloxavir marboxil, that has been developed in Japan can apparently treat the flu in a single dose. FDA plans to expanded indication of the antiviral drug Xofluza to include patients who are at high risk for developing influenza-related complications.
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