Flu drug Favipiravir is effective in treating COVID-19


BEIJING (March 19): There is some good news in the fight against the novel coronavirus causing the COVID-19 outbreak that is creating havoc to societies and economies of numerous countries around the world.

Xinhua reported on March 17 that Favipiravir, the anti-viral influenza drug which was approved for clinical use in Japan in 2014, has shown good clinical efficacy against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Xinhua quoted Zhang Xinmin, director of the China National Center for Biotechnology Development under the Ministry of Science and Technology, who held a press conference to announce the findings of the clinical trial.

More than 80 patients have participated in the clinical trial in The Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, including 35 patients taking Favipiravir and 45 patients on a control group. Results showed that patients receiving Favipiravir treatment turned negative for the virus in a shorter time compared with patients in the control group, Xinhua reported.

A multi-centered randomized clinical study led by the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University also suggested that the therapeutic effect of Favipiravir is much better than that of the control group.

Favipiravir has been recommended to medical treatment teams and should be included in the diagnosis and treatment plan for COVID-19 as soon as possible, Zhang said.

In February, Reuters had reported that Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co Ltd had received approval to start clinical trials to use the drug to treat pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus.

The company also received approval to manufacture the drug.

Favipiravir is marketed as an anti-influenza treatment by Fujifilm Holdings Corp. Following news of the successful clinical trials in China, Fujifilm shares shot up 15.4% to ¥5,230 (US$48.55) by the close of March 18 trading in Tokyo, pharma news website bioworld.com reported.

The pharma news website added that Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co had bought exclusive rights to favipiravir from Fujifilm's Toyama Chemical Co Ltd and it has received approval from the National Medical Products Administration to mass produce the drug and ensure stable supply.