Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, a Japanese multinational company claimed that its antiviral drug – Avigan showed effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients, after Phase 3 clinical study being done in Japan.
What is Avigan?
Avigan, which is also known as favipiravir, was used as emergency flu treatment in Japan since 2014. It is promoted by the Japanese government and donated to more than 80 countries around the world, even before the clinical trials were done. The drug disrupts RNA replication in influenza viruses. Thus, it is expected to have the same effect on coronavirus as they have the same type of RNA with influenza viruses. However, the drug can cause birth defects based on the result from animal studies. Hence, it is not suitable for pregnant women.
Clinical study on the effectiveness of Avigan towards coronavirus
Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings conducted the clinical study. The study began in March 2020, expected to end in June 2020. But it was delayed due to a decrease in COVID-19 patients in Japan, thus increased the difficulty to collect sufficient patient’s data, which was targeted at 96.
The study involved 156 COVID-19 patients with non-severe pneumonia in Japan. The result showed that Avigan reduced the recovery time for the patients. Patients treated with Avigan showed improved condition after 11.9 days, while the placebo group took 14.7 days to improve. The condition of patients was statistically stable, said Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. The announcement caused the shares of Fujifilm surged up to 4.6%, achieving their highest level in the past 4 months.
Avigan could be Japan’s first self-developed COVID-19 treatment
The Fujifilm group has been working with strategic partners to increase the production of Avigan. This is to meet the request of the Japanese government and other countries to supply the drug. Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. said that they will apply to use the drug Avigan on novel COVID-19 patients to the Japanese Health Ministry as early as October. Therefore, Avigan would be the first COVID-19 treatment developed by Japan if the application is approved.
In July 2020, Fujifilm group sold their global right to Dr Reddy’s Laboratories in India. The drug under the name favipiravir was approved to treat COVID-19 patients in India and Russia.
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Prepared by: Wan Kei