Posted on Mar 18, 2020, 3 p.m.
A drug used in Japan to treat influenza appears to be effective in treating COVID-19, according to reports doctors have found clear evidence that it improves coronavirus symptoms.
Favipiravir/Avigan is an antiviral that has been showing positive outcomes in clinical trials involving 340 patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen according to a statement made by Zhang Xinmin in a report in The Guardian. "It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," Zhang said.
Favipiravir/Avigan was developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and is being manufactured by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical; and it recently received approval as an experimental treatment for COVID-19 infections, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Shenzhen patients positive for COIVD-19 who were given the drug tested negative only 4 days after administration, as compared to a negative test 11 days later for those with no drug treatment. Additionally, lung conditions as shown in X-rays improved in 91% of those taking the drug as compared to 61% of those not taking the drug.
While not as effective in those with severe symptoms, according to Pharmaceutical Technology, Wuhan patients also have had positive results in shortening of duration with fever reduction from an average 4.2 days to 2.5 days.
"We've given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn't seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied," a source from the Japanese Health Ministry told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, according to The Guardian.
Favipiravir/Avigan is made to treat RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 which are viruses with the main genetic material of RNA rather than DNA, by stopping replication via crippling RNA polymerase enzymes that build RNA. Without the enzyme being entact the virus is not able to duplicate its genetic materials once inside a host cell, according to the drug description published in the journal Proceedings of the Japan Academy, Ser. B, Physical and Biological Sciences.
The Guardian reports that this drug is being used in Japan to treat those with mild to moderate symptoms with positive results, and preliminary findings of these trials have not been published in a peer reviewed scientific journal as of yet.
Other trials have begun to test other drugs and an experimental vaccine in humans. 45 participants are expected to enroll in a vaccine trial in Seattle over the next 6 weeks to test its safety as well as the ability to trigger immune system responses to fight off the coronavirus. If this trial goes well this will be followed up with 2 clinical trial phases that could take up to 12-18 months.
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