Drug used to treat flu is 'clearly effective', Chinese officials say

Drug being used to treat flu in Japan is ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus, Chinese officials claim

  • Avigan is said to ‘reduce the duration of the disease from 11 to 4 days’ 
  • ‘Drug proved effective in trials in the virus’s epicentre Wuhan, and Shenzhen’ 
  • Medicine is developed by Japanese Fujifilm, whose stocks rocketed today
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

A flu drug is ‘clearly effective’ in treating coronavirus, medical experts in China have claimed.

Favipiravir, the active ingredient in a Japanese anti-flu medicine called Avigan, was trialled on 340 patients with the killer disease in China.

Patients who took Favipiravir recovered quicker and showed greater lung improvement compared with patients not given the drug.

Anti-influenza Avigan tablets, produced by Japan’s Fujifilm, are displayed in Tokyo on October 22, 2014. Individuals given Favipiravir in Shenzhen gave negative results around four days after testing positive, compared to an average of 11 days for those not administered the drug, according to Japanese media

The component is thought to block the virus from replicating in the body.

Doses will be investigated in more COVID-19 patients by Hong Kong researchers, who claim they will give their pill ‘for free’ if studies show it is safe.

However, contradictory clinical trials suggest Favipiravir will not be useful in patients who have more severe illness.

As of yet, there isn’t a treatment for the new coronavirus causing a global pandemic. Most people have mild symptoms and can recover at home within a week.

Almost 200,000 have been infected and 7,9000 have died. 

Avipiravir is an active ingredient which has shown to be effective against flu strains, yellow fever, foot-and-mouth-disease and some other virus families.

It was given to 80 patients in Shenzen and in Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in December 2019.

Favipiravir has been effective, with no obvious side-effects, in helping coronavirus patients recover, Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s Science and Technology Ministry, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

A worker wearing protective suit checks the body temperature of an employee at the entrance of OrbusNeich Medical (Shenzhen) Co. Ltd amid the coronavirus outbreak on March 6, 2020 in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province of China. Trials of the Avigan anti-influenza drug in Shenzhen proved successful in reducing the duration of the disease in patients, according to Chinese officials 

‘It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,’ Mr Xinmin said, according to The Guardian. 

Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen had negative results for the coronavirus an average of four days after being diagnosed, meaning there was no trace of the virus in their body.

This compared with 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, according to local media.

X-rays showed improvements in lung condition in nine in ten of the patients who were treated with Favipiravir, compared to six in ten of those without the drug.

It is not clear what the results were in patients in Wuhan.

It’s also unknown which branded Favipiravir drug the patients were given.

One of the most known is Avigan, manufactured by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which is better known for its cameras. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014 as a new flu treatment.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, the medical arm of Fujifilm – has declined to comment on the clinical trial, The Guardian reports.

However, shares in the firm surged 15 per cent on Wednesday after the encouraging trial results were revealed by Mr Xinmin.

An oral medicine using favipiravir, developed by Hong Kong-based Sihuan Pharmaceutical, is also in line to try on COVID-19 patients.

Led by Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, a clinical trial is part of a program by Sihuan and the Institute of Microbiology Epidemiology, a division of the Chinese armed forces.

The study will involve 60 COVID-19 patients who will be given treatment for around 10 days. Larger trials are expected after.

Sihuan executive director Che Fengsheng said: ‘After all the efforts and preparations, our group is fully prepared for favipiravir’s raw material and preparation production.

‘Once approved, favipiravir tablets will be provided for free as a treatment protection for COVID-19 patients during the epidemic, bringing good news to patients.’



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