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Fujifilm seeks approval to market Avigan to treat COVID-19 in Japan

This supplied photo shows tablets of the anti-influenza drug Avigan. (Photo courtesy of Fujifilm)(Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Fujifilm Holdings Corp. said Friday one of its subsidiaries has applied for government approval to market the anti-viral drug Avigan for COVID-19 treatment in Japan.

    The filing by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. with Japan's health ministry came after clinical tests showed the drug reduces the recovery time for patients with non-severe cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

    If approved, the drug also known as favipiravir would be the third treatment for COVID-19 in Japan, following the anti-viral medication remdesivir developed by U.S. firm Gilead Sciences Inc. and the steroid dexamethasone.

    Fujifilm took longer than initially estimated to complete the clinical study, which began in March as the number of coronavirus cases was on a downward trend in Japan.

    According to an analysis of the data obtained during clinical testing on 156 patients without severe symptoms of COVID-19, Fujifilm found those administered with Avigan showed improvement after 11.9 days, shorter than the 14.7 days for those in a placebo group.

    Possible side effects include the worsening of liver functions but Fujifilm said no new safety concerns were identified.

    Avigan has already been approved as an influenza drug in Japan and the government has stockpiled the drug in preparation for an outbreak. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had expressed hope to have Avigan approved in May.

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