The Japanese Fujifilm group began a clinical trial to test the efficacy of their anti-influenza drug Avigan (favipiravir) to treat patients affected by the new coronavirus, following encouraging results from other studies conducted in China with this product .
The Japanese company plans to test the drug on about 100 patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in a clinical trial that will last until the end of June, detailed the Japanese public chain NHK on Wednesday.
Favipiravir prevents viruses from copying their genetic material through a mechanism of action to selectively inhibit RNA-polymerase involved in viral reproduction of the flu virus.
Avigan will be given for up to 14 days to patients between 20 and 74 years of age in a mild state of viral pneumonia. Pregnant women will be excluded from the study due to the risk of side effects.
Clinical trials are needed for Avigan approval
The Avigan obtained Japanese government approval in 2014 for its production and sale as an influenza drug, but it has never been distributed on the market and is not available in hospitals or pharmacies in any country, even in Japan.
Some doctors in Japan already use Avigan to treat COVID-19 for research purposes, but a company clinical trial is needed to obtain approval for large-scale distribution.
Italy, one of the countries most affected, has also given the green light to test the drug in patients in Lombardy and Veneto.
The Avigan gained attention after a study from Wuhan University, located in the Chinese city that was the first focus of the virus, noted that favipiravir is effective in treating COVID-19.