The first antiviral agent licensed by the Food and Drug Administration for systemic use in the United States (October 1966) was amantadine hydrochloride, an agent that blocks infection by influenza A (and some influenza B) strains.
Yet, as recently as the influenza A epidemic of 1980, says R. Gordon Douglas, Jr, MD, chair of the Department of Medicine, Cornell University Medical College, New York, and physician-in-chief, New York Hospital, amantadine was not widely used due to a commonly held belief that synthetic agents directed against RNA viruses were not safe or effective (see accompanying story, p 991).
This attitude has begun to change. Declares Raphael Dolin, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York, "There are now a number of compounds that are promising, and the whole area of antiviral chemoprophylaxis is more established."
Two newer agents now in clinical trials have