GlaxoSmithKline has been awarded new Japanese approval for its flu drug Relenza (zanamivir), to combat both influenza A and B, according to a report on the country’s JCN Network. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has also determined that Relenza – which is administered via an inhaler twice daily - will now be made available for children aged 5 or older.
Relenza was first launched in Japan in December 2000, but globally has failed to become the blockbuster GSK had once hoped. Its profile has been raised in the wake of the anticipated bird flu pandemic, with governments looking to stockpile the drug, but not to the same extent of rival Roche’s Tamiflu (oseltamivir) – an oral offering from the same neuraminidase inhibitor class. Tamiflu had also originally proved to be somewhat of a white elephant but, amid fears of a pandemic, made 2005 a triumphant year for the Swiss giant with sales of 1.6 billion Swiss francs, half of which came from stockpiling orders.