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COVID-19 medicine for mild symptoms to be authorized for first time in Japan

This electron microscope photo provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows the coronavirus isolated at the institute.

TOKYO -- Japan's health ministry is set to give special approval for "antibody cocktail" therapy, which has been raised as a candidate for treating COVID-19.

    The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will review the medicine in a specialized subcommittee session on July 19, and authorize the treatment as soon as the subcommittee's approval is given.

    Treatment using an antibody cocktail, or a combination of the two neutralizing antibody drugs casirivimab and imdevimab, is administered by an IV drip. If authorized, it will be the fourth coronavirus medication to be allowed for use in Japan, following the three drugs of remdesivir, dexamethasone, and baricitinib, all of which are designed to treat mainly moderate to severe symptoms. Antibody cocktail treatment would be the first approved medication targeting individuals with mild or moderate symptoms.

    The medicine was developed by U.S. pharmaceutical Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. As the two drugs are administered simultaneously, it will mainly be used at medical institutions. Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., which is to manufacture and sell the medicine, filed an application seeking special approval that enables the drug's usage to be authorized through simplified procedures, at the end of June. Overseas clinical trials have reportedly found that the medication is effective in reducing hospitalization and death risks by 70%.

    The treatment is known for being taken by former U.S. President Donald Trump when it was under clinical trial, following his infection with the coronavirus. Emergency use authorization has already been issued for the medicine in the United States. Chugai Pharmaceutical has also been conducting domestic clinical trials, and has exchanged a contract with the Japanese government to secure supplies of the medicine to cover the year 2021.

    (Japanese original by Hidenori Yazawa, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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