Covid-19: Japanese pharmacists have good news

Covid-19: Japanese pharmacists have good news

Ukraine will also test the effectiveness of antiviral drug Avigan

The peculiarity of the current pandemic is the lack of specific drugs against coronavirus. Laboratories around the world are actively working on the creation of such drugs since the virus has already claimed tens of thousands of lives and is continuing to pose a serious threat to humanity. However, we may soon be pleased to hear that such drugs exist. It is a Japanese drug Avigan that Japan will provide to Ukraine for free.

Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on April 7 that Tokyo had offered to provide anti-flu drug Avigan for free to 20 countries, including Ukraine. He said that many states had expressed interest in the drug as it had already shown encouraging results. However, more research is needed to prove its effectiveness. To this end, the Government of Japan has decided to follow the proposal of other countries for the use of the drug and clinical studies of its effectiveness.

Japan's Ambassador to Ukraine Takashi Kurai said in an exclusive comment to Ukrinform that Avigan is a recognized drug for the treatment of the new type of influenza, but its effectiveness in the treatment of coronavirus infection Covid-19 has not yet been confirmed, and clinical tests are ongoing. At the same time, the ambassador said: "Many countries express their interest in it because there is information about a reduction in viral load due to the use of the drug and improving symptoms in patients."

What is known about new drugs and how justified is the hope for their miraculous power? Will they be affordable to ordinary citizens?


Avigan (Favipiravir) was developed by FUJIFILM Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd., a Fujifilm subsidiary. The drug is intended primarily for the fight against influenza of a new type. After clinical tests, Avigan has been confirmed to be effective in preventing the spread of influenza compared to Oseltamivir, known as Tamiflu. Avigan was licensed and registered in Japan in March 2014. At the same time, animal experiments indicated that the drug might be teratogenic -- that it could cause developmental malformations in embryos or fetuses.

Therefore, despite its high effectiveness in the fight against influenza, it is not sold in Japanese pharmacies. And, of course, it cannot be given to pregnant women.

In the treatment of influenza it is used with great care by the decision of the doctor and with the consent of the patient.

Therefore, it is obvious that it will not be sold in Ukrainian pharmacies too.


In addition to the treatment of influenza, Avigan was used experimentally in the fight against Ebola. Clinical trials were conducted by South Korea and France. South Korea recognized it as effective in October 2014, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) - in 2015, after research in Guinea. There was a significant decrease in mortality in patients.

As for the new coronavirus, in China, where the spread of the infection began, local researchers, after testing about 5,000 drugs, named only three drugs that should be studied: Chloroquine, Avigan, and Remdesivir.

Subsequently, according to the results of clinical studies conducted in Wuhan and Shenzhen on 340 patients with Covid-19, an official at the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China, Zhang Xinmin, said on March 17 that Fujifilm's Avigan produced "encouraging outcomes." "The drug has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," he said.

Patients taking this drug in Shenzhen were reported to have beaten coronavirus in four days from the onset of the disease. In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with Favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug.

This information from China is very encouraging. Accordingly, the Government of Japan has considered the possibility of confirming the effectiveness of Avigan for the treatment of patients with Covid-19. However, the formal confirmation procedure requires further quantitative and qualitative clinical research.

So, in fact, Avigan does not yet have official confirmation of the effectiveness of the treatment of the new coronavirus.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press briefing on April 7, while mentioning Avigan: "Hope is definitely being born." According to him, 120 studies have already been conducted, and the results show improvements in the symptoms of the disease. Therefore, the government will allow the use of Avigan for patients who are willing to undergo clinical trials.

The aforementioned message from China spread around the world, and Japan received appeals from the governments of more than 30 countries, including Ukraine. Abe said that Japan would expand clinical research opportunities by cooperating with interested countries.

Thus, Japan has selected 20 countries to which Avigan will be provided free of charge. These include Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Estonia, Indonesia, Iran, Cyprus, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Moldova, Myanmar, UAE, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic.

In addition, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on April 7 that coordination was currently being advanced with about 30 more countries.

Meanwhile, Fujifilm announced the start of clinical trials on Avigan and plans to complete them in June this year. In addition to China, clinical trials are already underway in Italy and Turkey. Ankara even said at first that it had received "special medicines from China to fight the coronavirus," but these medicines then turned out to be Japanese Avigan.



By the way, Ukraine is also working on the development of anti-coronavirus drugs. Microkhim, a domestic manufacturing firm that traditionally specializes in cardiology, has recently announced the launch of work on its first domestic drug to treat coronavirus.

"In particular, the company's scientific divisions have begun to develop a generic copy of the antiviral drug Avigan, also known under the brand name as Favipiravir and T-705. The original drug was developed in Japan in 2014 and it passed the third phase of clinical trials in the United States in 2015. At the same time, it was tested during the epidemic in Wuhan and allowed for experimental use in Italy against Covid-19," the company said.

Therefore, it can be assumed that Avigan has already received a certain estimate in Ukraine. Now let's hope that getting the original Japanese drugs will help develop a generic copy.

In general, at least 90% of Covid-19 patients will not require this drug. Avigan could only be effective for patients from at-risk groups.

It is now known that Avigan is effective when the condition of the patient is not yet severe or critical. The drug prevents the transition to this condition. That is why one of the Avigan manufacturers, Kimiyasu Shiraki, recommended that doctors start giving it to patients six days after the onset of the disease.

… The quarantine in Ukraine can last quite a long time. Every morning we hear disturbing news about new infections and deaths.

The cure for the virus will undoubtedly emerge and prove effective. But no matter what, let's stay home, keep our distance with other people, wash our hands.

And the illness will recede sooner or later.

Takashi Hirano, Ukrinform

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