When most of the drugs and treatments have failed, an antiviral drug called Favipiravir is exhibiting positive results in treating the patients affected by COVID-19.
As the number of coronavirus cases across the world keeps escalating, scientists and researchers are testing new vaccines and drugs against the deadly virus. From repurposed flu treatments to failed Ebola drugs to anti-malaria drugs that were developed decades ago, everything is being tried and tested. While a vaccine for coronavirus is still away, these drugs haven’t shown any significant results yet. However, an antiviral drug called Favipiravir — a drug used in Japan to treat influenza — has shown positive results in treating the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Highlights! Is Favipiravir the real ‘game-changer’?
- Favipiravir has been previously used for treating influenza viruses in Japan and China.
- COVID-19 patients administered with Favipiravir have recovered faster in China.
- The drug is however not much effective in COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.
What is Favipiravir?
Favipiravir, which has proved to be an effective antiviral drug for fighting RNA infections by inhibiting the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), is mainly used for treating influenza viruses in Japan and China.
The drug is currently being promoted with the label Avigan and has become the first-ever antiviral drug to be used for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in China. Favipiravir has officially been approved by the National Medical Products Administration of China after it was found to be effective in treating coronavirus patients during clinical studies in the country.
Favipiravir shows positive results in China
The drug has been developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and is being manufactured by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical. The drug received approval for COVID-19 treatments after its successful testing last month.
Watch: Favipiravir – First Drug Approved in China For COVID-19 Treatment
According to medical authorities, Favipiravir showed positive results during clinical trials of 340 COVID-19 affected patients in Wuhan and Shenzhen region of China. According to Zhang Xinmin, member of China’s Science and Technology Ministry, the drug has proved to be highly effective in treatments against COVID-19.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment.” – Zhang Xinmin on Favipiravir
Various reports suggest that the patients in Shenzen who were administered Favipiravir turned negative for the virus just after a median of 4 days after becoming positive. While the one who weren’t treated with Favipiravir, it took a median of 11 days for them to turn negative.
In the same trial, the lung conditions (shown in X-rays) improved in about 91% of the patients who took Favipiravir as opposed to only 62% for those who didn’t take the drug. During its trial in Wuhan, the drug seemed to shorten the duration of a patient’s fever from an average of 4.2 days to an average of 2.5 days.
Ineffective for severe COVID-19 cases
In Japan, the doctors are using Favipiravir in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to severe symptoms. Though the results have been positive, the drug is not particularly effective in treating patients with more severe symptoms.
“We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied.” – A Japanese Health Ministry source
In 2016, Favipiravir was supplied by the Japanese government to counter the Ebola virus outbreak. It did prove effective then. However, since the drug was initially intended to treat flu, it will need government approval for full-use on COVID-19 patients.
The results shown by Favipiravir have been encouraging. The doctors and scientists are working on enhancing its use. When most of the measures have failed, the world desperately needs something like Favipiravir to destroy the novel coronavirus completely. Will it? Only time will tell.