Now there’s a drug to treat smallpox, just in case

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The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first-ever drug to treat smallpox, a disease that no longer exists.

It’s a just-in-case decision, made to ensure that there is a drug to treat people if smallpox were ever used as a bioterrorist weapon, the FDA said.

“This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The drug is called Tpoxx. Its generic name is tecovirimat. Because smallpox no longer infects people, it was tested for safety in 359 volunteers, and tested for efficacy in animals infected with close cousins of smallpox.

For drugs to treat diseases such as smallpox, which cannot ethically be tested in people by infecting them on purpose, the FDA has special rules. If the drug can be shown to be safe in people, and if it works to treat disease in animals, the drug’s maker can seek approval.


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