Story at a glance

  • The FDA has given the green light to three Massachusetts hospitals to launch small trials of favipiravir to treat coronavirus patients.
  • Reports out of China said infected patients who were given the drug tested negative for COVID-19 after a median of four days.
  • That’s compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a small, randomized trial of a Japanese flu drug that could be used to treat the coronavirus, according to the Boston Globe

The antiviral drug favipiravir, also known by the brand name Avigan, was approved to be used in trials at three Massachusetts hospitals. The trials will take place at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and UMass Memorial Health Care, and will involve around 50 or 60 patients with COVID-19, the Globe reports. 

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The drug used to treat new strains of the flu has shown some promise in being effective against the coronavirus in clinical trials involving 340 patients in China. 

Last month it was reported that 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.

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. 


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

Researchers in the U.S. should give one group the drug along with the typical care coronavirus patients would receive, while the control group would only receive the normal standard of treatment, the Globe reports. 

Dr. Keith T. Flaherty of Massachusetts General Hospital said the favipiravir study was among the more promising of around 30 clinical trials considered by the hospital.

“We have to prioritize, and this absolutely rose to the top,” Flaherty told the Globe.


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Published on Apr 08, 2020