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CALIFORNIA | HEALTH | THE STATE

Swiss, U.S. Firms Start Flu-Drug Testing

March 12, 1997|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Researchers began administering an experimental anti-influenza pill to people for the first time as a joint U.S.-Swiss drug development project got underway. Roche Holding Ltd., the big Swiss drug maker, is working with the compound's discoverer, Foster City-based biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc. In the first stage of tests, various doses of the pill are being given to healthy volunteers in Britain to determine its safety, tolerability and absorption, said a joint statement of the two companies. If the tests are successful, the companies will move to worldwide testing on patients infected with A and B strains of flu. The compound, called a neuraminidase inhibitor, blocks an enzyme necessary for the spread of the flu virus from cell to cell. The companies said that in tests on animals it "significantly decreased the duration and severity of symptoms when given after viral infection." Gilead shares gained 37.5 cents to close at $30.125 on Nasdaq.

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