Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ In Treating Coronavirus, Officials Say

Medical officials in Japan say a drug used to treat new strains of influenza has proven to be effective in treating the coronavirus COVID-19.

Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said the drug — called favipiravir and sold under the brand name Avigan — had produced “encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients,” The Guardian reported.

“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters on Tuesday.

People who had tested positive for the virus were given the drug, and then four days later tested negative. That compares with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug.

“Researchers also found that the lung condition improved in about 91 percent of the patients who were given the medicine, compared to 62 percent of those who didn’t take it, according to the local media outlet Nikkei,” The Guardian reported.

But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as 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 told the Mainichi Shimbun.

The same limitations had been identified in studies involving coronavirus patients using a combination of the HIV antiretrovirals lopinavir and ritonavir, the source added.

In 2016, the Japanese government supplied favipiravir as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.

Favipiravir would need government approval for full-scale use on Covid-19 patients, since it was originally intended to treat flu.

A health official told the Mainichi the drug could be approved as early as May. “But if the results of clinical research are delayed, approval could also be delayed.”

On Monday Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, announced that the first trial vaccine for the coronavirus is now being tested. The trial taking place in Seattle, which has been a hotbed for COVID-19. The test includes 45 people age 18-55 and they are receiving two injections, one at zero days, one at 28 days. The individuals will then be followed for one year. The trial results is still months away.

Chloroquine has also shown promise in treating the virus, President Trump said at a press conference on Friday.


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