Patients who received the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative in a median of four days
The world is terrified by the coronavirus pandemic that shakes the planet, so scientists and researchers are racing to find a solution that would eventually prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 and thus save lives.
With no vaccine expected anytime soon, many of them are working hard to determine if there is an existing drug that could temporarily fight the novel coronavirus, which is marked by fever, coughing and difficulty breathing.
According to Japanese media, Chinese medical authorities reported that a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza was effective in coronavirus patients.
Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, stated that favipiravir, provided promising effects in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients, 240 patients from Wuhan, China, and 80 patients in Shenzhen.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment.”
He explained that the medicine effectively treated coronavirus-related symptoms, including pneumonia, and caused no obvious side effects.
Public NHK reported that people treated with the medicine in Shenzhen recovered in just four days after becoming positive. The median time without treatment was 11 days.
X-rays showed that the condition of the lungs in about 91% of the patients treated was improved, compared to just 62 percent of people whose lung conditions improved without this medicine.
The drug, sold under the brand name Avigan, was developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical in 2014, but the subsidiary has yet to comment on the claims made by the Chinese authorities.
Reuters reported that, after Zhang’s report, shares of Fujifilm spiked over 15%, but the company does not expect an earnings impact for the drug, as its Chinese license on the drug’s key ingredient expired in 2019.
Japanese doctors use the same drug in clinical studies in the hope to prevent the multiplication of the virus in patients.
Yet, a Japanese health ministry source stated that it is not 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 went on to say that studies have shown the same limitations in the case of a treatment that uses the combination of the HIV antiretrovirals lopinavir and ritonavir.
Favipiravir was used in 2016 to fight the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea. Yet, as it was originally intended to treat flu, the government will need to approve its full-scale use on coronavirus patients.
The drug could be approved as early as May, a health official stated, but “ if the results of clinical research are delayed, approval could also be delayed.”