Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has enthusiastically promoted anti-influenza drug Avigan as a possible game-changer in the war against the coronavirus, but medical experts have called for caution, citing its side effects and yet unproven efficacy.
“Avigan has already been administered in more than 120 cases and we are receiving reports that it is effective in alleviating symptoms of the novel coronavirus,” Abe told a press conference on April 7, referring to the drug developed by a group firm of Fujifilm Holdings Corp. that is currently undergoing clinical tests on coronavirus patients.
“We intend to expand to the greatest possible extent its administration to patients wishing to take it…To make that possible, we will increase our stockpile of Avigan to three times the current level, enough to treat 2 million people,” the premier said.
The Japanese government has been raising expectations that the Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co.-developed drug can be an effective coronavirus treatment, even before clinical tests have shown it to be safe or effective for use in treating sufferers of the COVID-19 disease.
A scientific study in China concluded in March that the drug has been effective for patients, especially among those with mild symptoms. Beijing has said it will officially adopt the drug as part of its treatment guidelines for COVID-19 patients.
[Supplied photo of Avigan]
But medical experts warn the drug, also known as Favipiravir, may cause birth defects. It cannot be administered to expecting mothers or those who may become pregnant, while careful consideration must be given to allowing men to take it as it is distributed into semen.
As Avigan can inhibit the replication of the virus in cells, experts say it may bring about improvements for those with mild symptoms or those who have recently been infected. It may, however, be much more ineffective for those in whom the virus has already multiplied widely and are experiencing severe symptoms.
They also said Avigan is just one of the options among other candidates as a treatment for the new coronavirus. Those include anti-viral drug Remdesivir, developed as a possible treatment for Ebola virus disease, Ciclesonide, a drug used to treat asthma, and Nafamostat, used to treat acute pancreatitis.
Regarding U.S. firm Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Remdesivir, The New England Journal of Medicine published a preliminary study by an international team on April 10 showing the drug’s effectiveness in some 70 percent of coronavirus patients with severe symptoms.
The best of the Muslim Times’ collection for war against Covid 19:
In this day and age, understanding bacteria and viruses and developing vaccines are national security issues. In my view sizable part of every country’s defense budget should be spent in these pursuits rather than making tanks and other weapons.
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