18 March 2020 16:33


Coronavirus: Japanese anti-viral drug effective in treating patients, Chinese official says

A flu drug is 'clearly effective' in treating coronavirus, medical experts in China have claimed. Favipiravir, the active ingredient in a Japanese anti-flu medicine called Avigan, was trialled on 340 patients with the killer disease in China. Patients who took Favipiravir recovered quicker and showed greater lung improvement compared with patients not given the drug. Anti-influenza Avigan tablets, produced by Japan's Fujifilm, are displayed in Tokyo on October 22, 2014. Individuals given Favipiravir in Shenzhen gave negative results around four days after testing positive, compared to an average of 11 days for those not administered the drug, according to Japanese media However, contradictory clinical trials suggest Favipiravir will not be useful in patients who have more severe illness.

Avipiravir is an active ingredient which has shown to be effective against flu strains, yellow fever, foot-and-mouth-disease and some other virus families. It was given to 80 patients in Shenzen and in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in December 2019. Trials of the Avigan anti-influenza drug in Shenzhen proved successful in reducing the duration of the disease in patients, according to Chinese officials 'It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,' Mr Xinmin said, according to The Guardian. Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen had negative results for the coronavirus an average of four days after being diagnosed, meaning there was no trace of the virus in their body. This compared with 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, according to local media.

X-rays showed improvements in lung condition in nine in ten of the patients who were treated with Favipiravir, compared to six in ten of those without the drug. It's also unknown which branded Favipiravir drug the patients were given. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014 as a new flu treatment. Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, the medical arm of Fujifilm – has declined to comment on the clinical trial, The Guardian reports. However, shares in the firm surged 15 per cent on Wednesday after the encouraging trial results were revealed by Mr Xinmin.

An oral medicine using favipiravir, developed by Hong Kong-based Sihuan Pharmaceutical, is also in line to try on COVID-19 patients. The study will involve 60 COVID-19 patients who will be given treatment for around 10 days. 'Once approved, favipiravir tablets will be provided for free as a treatment protection for COVID-19 patients during the epidemic, bringing good news to patients.' Chinese medical authorities have claimed a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appears to be effective for those infected with the coronavirus, Japan's state broadcaster NHK reported. Zhang Xinmin, director of China's National Center for Biotechnology Development, said the favipiravir drug had produced positive outcomes during clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzen. The report on Tuesday said 340 patients had taken part in the clinical trials.

"It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," Zhang told reporters. Patients treated with the drug, which was developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, in Shenzen were found to turn negative for COVID-19 after a median of four days, rather than 11 days for those who were not treated with favipiravir, NHK reported. As of Wednesday, more than 200,000 people worldwide were reported to have contracted the coronavirus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with over 8,000 deaths. Shares in Japan's Fujifilm Holdings Corp surged 15% on Wednesday after a Chinese official said an active ingredient of the company's Avigan anti-flu drug appeared to help coronavirus patients recover. Avigan, also known as Favipiravir, is manufactured by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which has a healthcare arm although it is better known for its cameras.

Favipiravir has been effective, with no obvious side-effects, in helping coronavirus patients recover, Zhang Xinmin, an official at China's Science and Technology Ministry, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. But a Fujifilm spokesman said the company expects no direct earnings impact from potential sales growth of Favipiravir in China, at least for now, as its license for the key ingredient in the country already expired last year. In Japan, Fujifilm manufactures Avigan only on receiving orders from the government and has no sales target for the drug, she said. In a clinical trial in Shenzhen involving 80 participants, patients who took Favipiravir showed greater chest improvement and took less time to test negative for the genomic trace of the virus, compared with patients not given the drug, Zhang said. First developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co Ltd, the drug has been approved for manufacturing in China by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co Ltd for use against new or recurring influenza in adults, the Chinese drugmaker said in a filing last month. In 2016, the Japanese government supplied Favipiravir as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea. Click 'I agree' to allow Verizon Media and our partners to use cookies and similar technologies to access your device and use your data (including location) to understand your interests, and provide and measure personalised ads. Click 'Learn More' to learn and customise how Verizon Media and our partners collect and use data. A Japanese anti-viral drug appears to be effective in treating coronavirus patients, Chinese medical officials have found. Favipiravir, also known as Avigan, was approved for use in Japan in 2014 and is active against a range of illnesses, including influenza strains, yellow fever, Ebola and foot-and-mouth disease. Now it has shown encouraging results in treating patients with Covid-19 in clinical trials involving 320 people in Shenzhen and Wuhan. "It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," Zhang Xinmin, an official at China's science and technology ministry, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. The 35 patients who received the drug in Shenzhen appeared to test negative for coronavirus in a median of four days, compared to 11 days for the 45 who did not receive it. X-rays also showed improved lung conditions in some 91 per cent of Shenzhen patients given the drug, compared to 62 per cent of those who did not receive it, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. In Wuhan, trials reported to involve 240 people found patients' temperatures returned to normal and their coughs subsided more quickly than those in the control group, Mr Zhang said. The drug has been recommended to Chinese medical teams and should be included in their treatment plans for Covid-19 as soon as possible, state media reported Mr Zhang as saying. A Chinese pharmaceutical company is also expected to mass-produce the drug and ensure stable supply, he said. The country has been clinically testing the drug on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms since March. "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 paper reported an official at Japan's Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare as saying. As well as suggesting the drug may not be effective in treating more advanced cases of coronavirus, the Japanese official said the drug could cause foetal deformities and should perhaps not be used by pregnant women or those trying to conceive. The drug is manufactured by a pharmaceutical arm of Fujifilm - a firm better known for its cameras. After the announcement, shares in the company surged by 15 per cent, closing the morning at 5,207 yen, Reuters reported A spokesperson added that Fujifilm manufactures Avigan only on receiving orders from the Japanese government and has no sales targets for the drug. Japan has confirmed 868 cases of the coronavirus and 29 fatalities, not including cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, public broadcaster NHK reports.