Japanese flu drug favipiravir ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus, claims China

An official at China’s Science and Technology Ministry said on Wednesaday that a Japanese flu drug to treat new strains of influenza has proved ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus patients.

Japanese media said that Zhang Xinmin has claimed that favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced good encouraging outcomes in clinical trials conducted on 340 patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen, reported Guardian.

“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters.

Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus nearly four days after testing postive for the virus.

The X-rays of these patients also showed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients, while it was 62% on those without the drug.

The drug which is also known as Avigan is developed by uFujifilm Toyama Chemical. The pharma company has preferred not to comment on this matter.

Guardian reported that Avigan is being used by Japanese doctors in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

A Japanese health ministry source, however, said that the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Notably, favipiravir was used by the Japanese government in 2016 as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.

It is learnt that Favipiravir would need approval from Japanese government for full-scale use on Covid-19 patients and the drug could be approved as early as May. “But if the results of clinical research are delayed, approval could also be delayed.”