Philippine official says Japanese 'anti-flu' drug is 'very promising' vs 'coronavirus'

Philippine Undersecretary of Health Eric Domingo said on March 30 that the Philippine government is planning to bring in the Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

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Coronavirus Vaccines Updates


In an interview, he described the drug as “very promising” among anti-viral medications, despite it being a “very early development drug”. However, he notes that patients who have taken the drug seem to have responded positively to the medication. According to GMA News, Domingo said Avigan has yet to find a distributor in the Philippines. It is also currently not being manufactured in commercial quantity because it is still being developed. One of the active ingredients of Avigan is favipiravir, which has reportedly shown positive results in clinical trials, according to China’s ministry of science and technology. Chinese authorities cited the positive results of two clinical trials that tested the drug. 


Favipiravir has been used in the past to treat severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome or MERS, two diseases caused by other coronaviruses. Favipiravir has also been known to prevent mice from catching Ebola. Medical News Today writes that researchers of one of the two recent Chinese medical trials compared favipiravir to lopinavir, an HIV inhibitor.


That study compared two methods of treatment over a period of time on patients at The Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen. The study began in early February when the researchers gave 35 COVID-19 patients 1,600 milligrams of favipiravir twice with inhaled interferon on the first day. The patients then took only 600 mg of favipiravir twice with inhaled interferon on the following days. The researchers also kept a control group of 45 patients who took lopinavir or ritonavir for 14 days at 400 mg then 100 mg with inhaled interferon twice a day. 


The group found that patients who took favipiravir were negative of the virus after around four days, while those who took the other drugs were cleared in 11 days. The researchers said that favipiravir was linked to “faster viral clearance”. Many continue to doubt the study because more of the patients in the favipiravir group were treated sooner, were younger, and did not have a fever. The study was also quite small, which means favipiravir would need a better, randomized controlled trial before it is used for COVID-19.



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