Here Are the Best New Drugs of 2018

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Though older generic drugs are effective and affordable options for most chronic medical conditions, newer medications often come along, carrying with them excitement and promise. Here are the game changers of 2018.

 

 

1) Xofluza, the faster flu medication

What is it?

Xofluza is a new pill that treats the flu and prevents the spread of infection by blocking the influenza virus from multiplying. It’s been used in Japan since February 2018 and was just approved for use in the US.

Why do we care?

In a study on folks ages 12 to 64 years old with the flu, a single dose of Xofluza improved flu symptoms just as well as the standard flu treatment of Tamiflu taken over five days. In the study, a dose of Xofluza was defined as 40 mg for patients weighing less than 80 kg and 80 mg for patients weighing 80 kg or more. Tamiflu (oseltamivir) was dosed at 75 mg twice daily for five days. Xofluza is also much faster than Tamiflu at reducing viral load, or the amount of flu viruses remaining in the body, which means that with Xofluza, you’re no longer contagious sooner.

Side note: While this is exciting, early studies on Xofluza have shown that the influenza virus may develop resistance to the drug after a single dose, which raises concerns about the long-term use of this medication.

 

2) Qbrexza wipes for excessive sweating

What is it?

Qbrexza is a topical wipe containing a medication called glycopyrronium that blocks sweat production. The FDA approved Qbrexza in June.

Why do we care?

Almost 3% of Americans suffer from excessive sweating, also known as hyperhidrosis. For these folks, Qbrexza’s approval is a big deal because existing oral medications had horrible side effects, and Drysol as well as other antiperspirants don’t always work.

 

 

3) Auvi-Q epinephrine auto-injectors for infants and toddlers

What is it?

Auvi-Q is the first and only FDA-approved epinephrine auto-injector for infants and toddlers weighing 16.5 lbs to 33 lbs with life-threatening allergies. It contains 0.1 mg of epinephrine, the smallest dose available among all epinephrine auto-injectors.

Why do we care?

Children with serious allergies who carry injectable epinephrine often carry doses too high for little kids. Auvi-Q now offers a lower-dose epinephrine auto-injector for infants and toddlers. In addition, the manufacturer has made it easy for many patients to access it for free.

 

4) Andexxa, a reversal agent for blood thinners

What is it?

Andexxa, a decoy to blood thinners like Xarelto and Eliquis, is the first of its kind. It was approved by the FDA in June of this year and is used to reverse life-threatening bleeding that can sometimes happen with these blood thinners.

Why do we care?

Before Andexxa, if you were taking Xarelto or Eliquis and had excessive bleeding, trauma or needed emergency surgery, we didn’t have a way to quickly reverse the effect of those blood thinners (like we do with Coumadin by using Vitamin K). Now we do.

 

5) Annovera, the reusable contraceptive vaginal ring

What is it?

Annovera is a contraceptive vaginal ring similar to Nuvaring, which releases hormone for three weeks of use. However, unlike Nuvaring, which requires a new ring after three weeks, with Annovera, the same ring can be reinserted after a seven-day break and be used repeatedly for 13 cycles. Annovera was approved by the FDA in August.

Why do we care?

The reusable system of Annovera offers a more convenient option than Nuvaring. This should be helpful to folks looking for continuous contraception.

 

 

6) Epidiolex, an FDA-approved cannabidiol

What is it?

Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is the first drug approved by the FDA with an active ingredient derived from marijuana. It can reduce the frequency of seizures in patients with a form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), which typically appears in infancy or early childhood.

Why do we care?  

The approval of Epidiolex is a reminder that studies that properly evaluate active ingredients in marijuana can lead to important medical therapies.  

 

7) Ozempic, the once weekly non-insulin injection for diabetes

What is it?  

Ozempic is a type of non-insulin diabetes medication known as a glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonist, which increases insulin levels in the body.

Why do we care?

In addition to improving blood sugar levels like other diabetes medications, once weekly injections of Ozempic have been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. And it helps with weight loss. Bonus.

 

8) Tagrisso for targeted lung cancer therapy

What is it?

Tagrisso is a targeted treatment for the most common cause of cancer deaths: lung cancer. It’s a pill recently approved for use in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients who have a DNA mutation in the EGFR gene. This mutation happens in 10% of Caucasians and is even more common in people of Asian decent. Hyperactivity of the EGFR gene fuels the growth of cancer cells. Like other EGFR inhibitors, Tagrisso blocks EGFR overactivity to prevent cancer cell growth.

Why do we care?

In the US, about 15% of patients with non-small cell lung cancer have a mutation in the EGFR gene. Studies show that Tagrisso improves survival in these cancer patients. Tagrisso might be helpful in terms of quality of life too, as targeted cancer drugs like Tagrisso often have less severe side effects compared to standard chemotherapy drugs.

 

Dr O.

 

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