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Current Affairs

Anti-influenza drug Favipiravir being tested for COVID-19

Date: 07 April 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Japanese conglomerate Fujifilm announced the start of phase III clinical trials of Avigan, an influenza antiviral drug that is being experimented with in many countries for the treatment of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

 

Background

As there is still no specific cure for COVID-19, medicines used for other ailments are being repurposed around the world for it. Drugs for malaria, HIV, arthritis, among others have been administered to COVID-19 patients, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

 

Details

  • The anti-influenza drug Avigan (generic name: Favipiravir), which showed promising results when it was repurposed during the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic, is now being touted as a ray of hope in the treatment of COVID-19 as well.

  • Favipiravir was originally intended to be used as an antiviral in the treatment of influenza. It received regulatory approval in Japan in 2014 and was marketed as Avigan.

  • Japan supplied Favipiravir to affected countries as emergency aid during the Ebola virus epidemic of 2014-16, which claimed over 11,000 lives. The drug was effective in bringing down mortality rates from 30 per cent to 15 per cent when administered to those with low to moderate viral loads.

  • The drug has shown promising results in treating patients at a mild or moderate stage of COVID-19. It has been used as an emergency measure to stop the disease from worsening when treatment becomes more challenging.

  • Since the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is an RNA virus like the influenza A and B viruses, Favipiravir could potentially also work against the former. The drug is less effective when the virus has already multiplied.

  • According to some studies, its side effects may include fetal deaths or deformities. It is hence not prescribed for patients who are pregnant.