"It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment." Those are definitely words one wants to hear regarding a drug that could help coronavirus patients, and they're the words of an official at China’s science and technology ministry regarding favipiravir, a new Japanese flu drug that China has been using on COVID-19 patients. Those who received the drug, brand name Avigan, in a clinical trial in Shenzhen tested negative for coronavirus a median of four days after testing positive; for those not treated, the figure was 11 days. Plus, those treated with the drug showed improved lung condition via X-ray in 91% of cases. Those not treated had a rate of 62%, the Guardian reports. There were 80 people involved in that trial, and similar results were found in a Wuhan trial involving 240 patients, NHK reports.
In the Wuhan trial, per the Nikkei Asian Review, patients who got the drug were fever-free within an average of 2.5 days; without the drug, the average was 4.2 days. Coughing also improved about 1.4 days sooner (within an average of 4.6 days) than it did in patients who did not receive the drug. Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, the firm that developed the drug to treat new influenza strains, has not yet commented, but shares in the company surged after the comments made headlines. Some tempering news: a source from the Japanese health ministry claims the drug may not be as effective for everyone. "We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied," the source says, adding that the same limitation has been found in studies using HIV antiretrovirals lopinavir and ritonavir. (Read more coronavirus stories.)