March 20, 2020 – China’s health leadership announced they have found the Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug Avigan to be effective in treating COVID-19 disease patients.
Zhang Xinmin, China’s director of the National Center for Biotechnology Development said Avigan (Favipiravir) was found to be effective in 2 clinical trials completed in Wuhan and Shenzhen and involved 240 patients and 80 patients respectively.
During a conference in Beijing on March 17, 2020, Zhang said the medicine worked for coronavirus-related symptoms including pneumonia and had no obvious side effects.
Zhang said those who were given Avigan reported positive results after 4 days of therapy. This contrasts with a median of 11 days for those without the medication.
Zhang said more than 80 COVID-19 patients have participated in the clinical trial in The Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen, including 35 patients taking Favipiravir and 45 patients on a control group.
One of these clinical trials also found that X-rays confirmed improvements in lung conditions in about 91 percent of the patients who were given the medicine.
The director said he formally recommended the use of this medicine as a way to treat the COVID-19 disease, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
According to Zhang, a Chinese pharmaceutical company has been approved by the National Medical Products Administration to mass-produce the medication and ensure a stable supply.
The Avigan tablet was developed by the Fujifilm Group company, Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd., and is not distributed in the Japanese marketplace.
Avigan (Favipiravir) (T-705; 6-fluoro-3-hydroxy-2-pyrazinecarboxamide) is an anti-viral agent that selectively and potently inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) of RNA viruses.
Avigan / Favipiravir undergoes an intracellular phosphoribosylation to be an active form, favipiravir-RTP (favipiravir ribofuranosyl-5′-triphosphate), which is recognized as a substrate by RdRp and inhibits the RNA polymerase activity.
Of note is that favipiravir shows anti-viral activities against other RNA viruses such as arenaviruses, bunyaviruses, and filoviruses, all of which are known to cause fatal hemorrhagic fever. These unique anti-viral profiles will make Avigan / Favipiravir a potentially promising drug for specifically untreatable RNA viral infections.
Previously, a study in 2017 found Aigan / Favipiravir was effective against a wide range of types and subtypes of influenza viruses, including strains resistant to existing anti-influenza drugs.
And, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research conducted a clinical trial on Avigan’s efficacy as a treatment for Ebola Virus Disease in Guinea from December 2014 to May 2015. Based on the trial results, the Guinean government adopted Avigan tablet administration as part of a treatment regimen for Ebola.
As of March 17, 2020, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not specifically approved any medication for the of the COVID-19 disease in humans.
SARS-CoV-2 outbreak news is published by Coronavirus Today.com.
COVID-19 treatment development news is published by Precision Vaccinations.
- Fact checked by Robert Carlson, MD
- Fact checked by Kelley Lu, PharmD
- Fact checked by Danielle Reiter, RN
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