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New Drug, Pleconaril speeds recovery from common cold

Colds are the single most frequent reason why people go to the doctor. Antibiotics are worthless against colds, though doctors often prescribe them anyway. Researchers have developed a drug that speeds recovery from the common cold -- a significant breakthrough for scientists who have been in pursuit of a cure for decades. The new drug, Pleconaril -- which is still months away from drugstores -- eases cold symptoms within a day and makes a runny nose completely clear up a day sooner than usual.

Unlike many over-the-counter remedies, which ease cold symptoms by drying up plugged noses and soothing aches, pleconaril attacks a large group of viruses known as the picornaviruses. Among these is the rhinovirus, the bug that causes about half of all colds.//

Since the medicine doesn't make the sniffles disappear immediately, it is still debatable whether the scientists have discovered the long-sought cure. But experts say there is little doubt the medicine makes people feel better sooner if their cold is caused by a rhinovirus, the most common culprit.

The research was financed by ViroPharma Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania, which is developing the drug. The company applied to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to market the drug. The company has not said how much it will charge for the medicine, which would be sold by prescription under the brand name Picovir, but officials said it is likely to cost as much as antibiotics.

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