The first drug to treat smallpox wins FDA approval

Jul 16, 2018

Thanks to a global vaccination effort, the WHO declared in 1980 that smallpox had been eradicated from the world. But concerns that it could be used as a biological weapon have now led to the first-ever approval of a drug to fight the disease.

Smallpox, a contagious illness that causes fever, body aches and small, puss-filled sores, has been one of the deadliest diseases in human history. It is estimated that smallpox killed 300-500 million people in the 20th century alone.  

Due to “longstanding concerns” that it could be reintroduced as a weapon, the FDA greenlighted a drug called TPOXX made by SIGA Technologies. The drug was tested in animals and its effectiveness was measured by the survival rate of infected animals compared to those given a placebo.

“To address the risk of bioterrorism, Congress has taken steps to enable the development and approval of countermeasures to thwart pathogens that could be employed as weapons. Today’s approval provides an important milestone in these efforts. This new treatment affords us an additional option should smallpox ever be used as a bioweapon,” FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, said in a statement.

Read the full FDA statement.