Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Flu drug used in Japan shows promise in treating COVID-19

Doctors find "clear evidence" it improves coronavirus symptoms. (Image: © Shutterstock)

By Jeanna Bryner - Live Science Editor-in-Chief

A drug used in Japan to treat influenza seems to be effective at treating the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to news reports.

The antiviral drug, called Favipiravir or Avigan, showed positive outcomes in clinical trials involving 340 individuals in Wuhan and Shenzhen, said Zhang Xinmin, of China's science and technology ministry, The Guardian reported.

"It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," Zhang said Tuesday (March 17), The Guardian reported.

Developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, the antiviral drug is being manufactured by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical for treating influenza viruses. Last month, the drug reportedly received approval as an experimental treatment for COVID-19 infections, Pharmaceutical Technology reported.

Patients in Shenzhen who had tested positive for COVID-19 and who were given the drug got a negative virus test back four days later, as a median (half showed a negative test earlier and half later than four days). That was compared with a negative test about 11 days later, as a median, for patients not on the drug, according to news reports. In that same trial, lung conditions (as shown in X-rays) improved in about 91% of patients taking Favipiravir, compared with just 62% who weren't taking the antiviral drug.

In the Wuhan trial, the drug also seemed to shorten the duration of a patient's fever from an average of 4.2 days to 2.5 days, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.  Read more >>