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Asia Minute: Japanese Company with Big Plans for Flu Treatment

Leonid Mamchenkov

The Centers for Disease Control says “widespread flu activity” continues in 48 states. While the latest list does NOT include Hawai‘i, the Healthcare Association of Hawai‘i says local hospitalizations for flu are 40 to 60 percent higher than last year. The severity of this flu season has brought attention to a Japanese company which says it has a single-treatment pill that can kill the virus in a day. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Shionogi may not make a list of best-known corporate Japanese names. But the roots of the Osaka-based pharmaceutical company go back to 1878.

You may know one of the break-through products the company produced along with AstraZeneca—the anti-cholesterol drug Crestor. These days, a big focus for Shionogi is the flu. And a one-step medication that it says can kill the influenza virus within 24 hours.

Right now, apart from a flu shot before the fact, Tamiflu is one of the most prescribed treatments, and it must be taken twice a day over five days.

The Asahi Shimbun reports a panel from Japan’s Health Ministry cleared the manufacturing of the drug less than two weeks ago. Formal approval from the Ministry is expected next month—making it available to the Japanese public sometime in May.

Clearance in the United States would take longer—right now the treatment doesn’t even have an English name.

Credit hiromitsu morimoto / Flickr
Shionogi Pharmaceutical Research Center

Health research is one matter—stock speculation is another.

Shionogi is publicly-traded – part of the Nikkei 225. It also trades in the United States on the NASDAQ, and the short term bets were out in force on Monday.

The stock opened New York trading at 55 and spiked as high as 75 about an hour later—before plunging sharply and closing the day with a gain of a little less than one percent.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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