Japan considers using anti-influenza drug Avigan to treat novel Coronavius infections

Avigan was formulated by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co and has been produced and stocked in Japan for treating influenza

Japan is deliberating over treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus using Avigan, an anti-influenza medication, said Katsunobu Kato, the country's health minister on Saturday. Noting that there is standardised treatment for the disease currently, he suggested that the drug which is also known as Favipiravir could be used in treating COVID-19. "We will do everything we can," said Kato in a TV program, according to Kyodo News.

Avigan was formulated by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co and has been produced and stocked in Japan as a drug for treating influenza. However, there is hope that the drug could help treat other deadly diseases such as Ebola.

Evaluating the effectiveness of flu drugs

The health ministry will examine the effectiveness of flu drugs in combating the infection Kato told reporters. "We hear from overseas that some (drugs) among those that have been used against influenza may be useful," he said. He also added that if it is found necessary, the drug will be made available to various medical institutions for treating patients afflicted with the infection.

National Microbiology Laboratary
Representational Picture Reuters

Basic policy to counter the outbreak

Kato also stated that a public policy concerning the handling of the coronavirus outbreak will be issued by the government tentatively by Tuesday. According to government officials, the existing policy for the coronavirus will form the basis of the policy to be announced.

As of now, 105 cases have been confirmed in the East Asian island nation. Also, one coronavirus death has also been reported. Japan also had to deal with the massive outbreak on the cruise ship, Diamond Princess, that is docked near Yokohama. So far, over 630 passengers and crew have tested positive for the infection.

Repurposing drugs to treat coronavirus

Recently, it was reported that China was using an HIV drug, Kaletra—which is a combination of two other anti-HIV drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir—in trials as a possible treatment option for the novel coronavirus infection. However, this led to panic buying of the drug, including on the black market.

Another antiviral drug, Remdesivir—which was developed by an American biotechnology company, Gilead Sciences, to treat Marburg and Ebola infections—is also under trial. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO, recently announced that the preliminary results of the virus will be available within three weeks.

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