The world is currently battling against the deadly Coronavirus outbreak which has killed over 3,400 people and infected more than 102,000 individuals around the world. While scientists are struggling to find a vaccine for the COVID-19, in Japan, authorities are racing to test a drug developed by Fujifilm Holdings for potential treatment of the Novel Coronavirus infection.
But the newly developed drug has some side effects which should not be overlooked as a recent report by The Wall Street Journal has revealed the truth behind the Fujifilm Holdings Corp. drug, named as Avigan.
New drug for COVID-19 in Japan
Japan nationwide tests include 80 people who have been diagnosed with the Novel Coronavirus infection and developed mild or no symptoms. But it should be mentioned that the experts from the medical world have warned that women between the age of 18 and 40 should not be recruited by the Japanese authorities for the drug trial as Avigan may cause birth defects.
As per the report, this drug was approved in Japan in 2014 as a backup medication in case of a new kind of influenza emerged. Avigan was never used to treat regular flu as early studies on animals revealed that the drug could be responsible for fetal damage or death if pregnant women take the medication.
Despite such dangerous side effects when Japan decided to launch the trial it triggered controversies since Fujifilm's CEO is a golfing partner of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has received a donation of $28K from the company. PM Abe also featured in a recent television interview, where he touted Avigan by name but avoided mentioning two other drugs, Gilead Sciences' Remdesivir and AbbVie's Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) which are also being evaluated. However, experts doubt that the new Fujifilm's drug will be effective enough to be useful.
Other Japanese Coronavirus drugs
It should be mentioned that earlier this week reports revealed that Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical Co said that it was developing a drug for high-risk patients, diagnosed with the New Coronavirus. The company said that they are working on a plasma-derived therapy which previously showed effective results in terms of treating severe acute viral respiratory infections.
Takeda, which joins other drugmakers working on developing drugs to treat the deadly disease that has struck over 400 people in Japan, said, "By transferring the antibodies to a new patient, it may help that person's immune system respond to the infection and increase their chance of recovery."
Coronavirus treatment: Are we getting it soon or not?
A few weeks ago, Israeli scientists at MIGAL stated that they have already developed a vaccine against avian Coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV), while, Israeli Minister of Science and Technology Ofir Akunis said a Coronavirus vaccine would be ready in three weeks and available within 90 days.
Meanwhile, a team of scientists told the US Congress on March 6 that they had created a vaccine which may prevent the deadly Coronavirus outbreak. But the vaccine never reached the trial period due to lack of funding.
While explaining about the potential vaccine against the New Coronavirus, the co-director of the Centre for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, Dr Peter Hotez testified before the Congress and said that in 2016 the was created to respond against SARS.
In addition, Dr Hotez revealed that "Unfortunately some of my colleagues in the biotech industry are making this inflated claims about vaccines coming in weeks," and mentioned that the process to manufacture and distribute a vaccine to combat the new Coronavirus will take time, much longer than some experts have estimated.