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A Durham company is developing an intravenous drug for patients with the flu who are critically ill. BioCryst Pharmaceuticals has developed the experimental drug, Peramivir, which could be a tool to battle the H1N1 pandemic.

A recent study by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology estimated that the virus could send nearly 300,000 patients into intensive care this season. Other anti-viral medications being used to treat flu patients are either aerosols that are inhaled or pills or liquids that are ingested. Because the flu attacks the lungs and sometimes inhibits digestion, those medications aren’t as effective as an IV.

BioCryst received fast-track approval in 2006 from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop the drug and is working with an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a $180 million grant to complete clinical trials.

There’s no projection on when the drug could receive final approval. Still, the FDA has allowed a handful of physicians nationwide to obtain the drug under a “compassionate use” basis for flu patients after other treatments have failed.

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