Medical experts in China have claimed that a new flu drug is ‘clearly effective’ in treating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Favipiravir, the active ingredient in a Japanese anti-flu medicine called Avigan, was trialled on 340 patients with the disease in China, reported dailymail.co.uk
Patients who took the flu drug recovered quicker and showed greater lung improvement compared with patients not given the drug. 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 coronavirus pandemic. Most people have mild symptoms and can recover at home within a week.
Almost 200,000 have been infected and 7,900 have died. 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.
An oral medicine using favipiravir, developed by Hong Kong-based Sihuan Pharmaceutical, is also in line to try on COVID-19 patients.
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Led by Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, a clinical trial is part of a programme by Sihuan and the Institute of Microbiology Epidemiology, a division of the Chinese armed forces.
The clinical research on favipiravir augers well for another anti-viral, Gilead Sciences Inc.’s experimental drug remdesivir, which is also undergoing clinical trials in China, Tyler Van Buren, an analyst with Piper Sandler said. Results of the remdesivir study are yet to be published.
“If successful, it could be approved for broad use in the coming months considering it’s safe, the bar for efficacy in the context of the ongoing global pandemic is low,” he said.
The study will involve 60 COVID-19 patients who will be given treatment for around 10 days. Larger trials are expected later.
Sihuan executive director Che Fengsheng has said, “After all the efforts and preparations, our group is fully prepared for favipiravir’s raw material and preparation production.”
Patients in the lopinavir and ritonavir trial were also found to show more gastrointestinal side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea than those not given the drug in the comparison group.
Nearly 14% of those taking the drug were unable to finish the 14-day therapy, mostly because of the gastrointestinal disorders.