Story at a glance

  • The clinical trials involved 340 patients.
  • Japanese media reports patients tested negative for coronavirus after a median of four days, compared with a median of 11 days for those not treated with the drug.
  • Japanese media reports a Japanese health ministry suggested the drug was not as effective for those who experience more severe symptoms.

A Japanese drug used to treat new strains of the flu has shown promise in being effective against the coronavirus in clinical trials, Japanese media reported on Wednesday. 

Medical authorities in China said the antiviral drug favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, has produced encouraging results in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients, according to The Guardian.

Infected patients who were given the drug in Wuhan and Shenzhen tested negative for the coronavirus after a median of four days, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, The Guardian reported, citing public broadcaster NHK

ADVERTISEMENT

“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, told reporters this week

Researchers also made the claim that the lung condition in about 91 percent of the patients treated with favipiravir improved, compared to 62 percent of patients who did not take the drug. 

Doctors in Japan are reportedly using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms. 

But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people who experience more severe symptoms, according to The Guardian

Currently, there is no treatment for the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 200,000 people worldwide and left more than 8,000 dead. 

Researchers on Monday administered the first shot in a trial for a potential vaccine at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The vaccine was developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its collaborators at Modern Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass. 

But while the trial launched this week, public health officials have warned for weeks that a vaccine will not be ready for 12-18 months in the best circumstances.

Published on Mar 18, 2020