An official from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology said Wednesday that a Japanese flu drug used to treat new strains of influenza has been “clearly effective” in treating coronavirus patients.
According to Japanese media, Zhang Xinmin claimed that favipiravir, which was developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had good encouraging results in clinical studies with 340 patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen, Guardian said.
“It has a high level of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that patients receiving the drug in Shenzhen became negative for the virus almost four days after the positive test for the virus.
X-rays of these patients also showed improvement in lung condition in around 91% of patients, compared to 62% in patients without the drug.
The drug, also known as Avigan, is being developed by uFujifilm Toyama Chemical. The pharmaceutical company preferred not to comment on the matter.
Guardian reported that Avigan is used by Japanese doctors in clinical trials in coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms.
However, a source from the Japanese Ministry of Health said the drug was not as effective on people with more severe symptoms. “We gave Avigan 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work as well if the virus has already multiplied,” the source told Mainichi Shimbun.
Favipiravir in particular was used by the Japanese government in 2016 as an emergency aid to counter the outbreak of the Ebola virus in Guinea.
It is known that favipiravir would require approval from the Japanese government for full use in Covid-19 patients, and the drug could be approved in May. “However, if clinical research results are delayed, approval may be delayed.”