Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says more than 30 countries have asked Japan for favipiravir (Avigan) to fight Covid 19

Japan, China Vie to Be Global Supplier of Unproven Coronavirus Drug

Source: Wall Street Journal

By Peter Landers and Miho Inada

TOKYO—A drug called favipiravir has set off a diplomatic tug of war between geopolitical rivals Japan and China, both of which are offering it to other nations as a gesture to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

What makes the rival diplomacy unusual is the lack of solid evidence that either country’s pills can help virus victims. Only one peer-reviewed article suggests the drug’s efficacy in fighting Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and previous studies show favipiravir could cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. That article, reporting on a small study in China, was republished Thursday U.S. time, two weeks after it was pulled from the internet without explanation.

Favipiravir is one example of how coronavirus treatments have become a political as well as a medical issue. President Trump, trying to rally the country with reasons for optimism, has advocated the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19, overriding the caution of medical advisers who say there is no clear evidence yet that it works.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese officials, heartened by mostly anecdotal reports of success in treating Covid-19, are championing the drug, which a Japanese company initially developed under the brand name Avigan.

“My plan is to expand use as much as possible for every patient who wants it,” said Mr. Abe at a news conference on April 7. “We’ve actually received requests from more than 30 countries on Avigan: ‘Please send it from Japan, please supply it.’ ” The same night, he went on public broadcaster NHK and called the drug a “silver bullet.”

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Categories: Health

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