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Japan firm starts clinical trial for oral drug to treat mild COVID-19 symptoms

This electron microscope photo provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows the coronavirus isolated at the facility. (Photo Courtesy of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases)

TOKYO -- A Japanese pharmaceutical giant announced July 26 that it began its first phase of clinical trials for an oral drug designed to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

    Pharmaceutical company Shionogi & Co. is working toward putting the medicine into practical use at an early stage as an antiviral drug that can be taken at home and other places outside hospitals like flu medications.

    The medicine is envisioned to be taken once a day, for a total of five days. It aims to reduce the amount of virus particles in the body to prevent the development of severe symptoms, by taking it early on after getting infected. During the first stage of clinical trials, 75 healthy adults will be given the drug.

    Medication administered by an IV drip which was developed by a U.S. firm was authorized following special approval in early July, and became the first approved medicine in Japan targeting individuals with mild or moderate symptoms. However, it is mainly used in medical institutions to treat hospitalized patients who have risks of developing severe symptoms. Due to its convenience, U.S. firm Pfizer and other companies have also been rushing to develop oral drugs.

    Shionogi & Co. issued a comment saying, "It has been reported that even if you have mild or no symptoms (of the coronavirus), symptoms can later develop rapidly. Medicine which can be used safely and easily is necessary, and it is hoped that it will meet the needs of society and the medical field."

    (Japanese original by Ai Yokota, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)

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