Source : Nikkei Asian Review

DALIAN, China/HONG KONG/TOKYO — An influenza medicine developed by a Fujifilm Holdings group company is effective against the new coronavirus, the Chinese government said on Tuesday.

Beijing has already begun recommending the drug favipiravir, developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and sold under the brand name Avigan.

“It is very safe and clearly effective,” said Zhang Xinmin, director of the science ministry’s China National Center for Biotechnology Development, in a news conference.

Fujifilm Toyama developed the drug in 2014. It has been administered to coronavirus patients in Japan since February.

On Wednesday, shares in Fujifilm shot up 15.4% in Tokyo in the afternoon session. Morning trade in the stock was suspended after a glut of buy orders following Beijing’s announcement.

Clinical trials were conducted on 200 patients at hospitals in Wuhan and Shenzhen. Results showed that patients who received the drug tested negative in a comparatively short time, while pneumonia symptoms were markedly reduced.

Patients taking favipiravir tested negative after a median of four days, compared to 11 days in the control group, according to Zhang. There were no clear side effects, he added.

Another clinical trial in Wuhan revealed that patients treated with favipiravir recovered from fever in 2.5 days on average, versus 4.2 days for other patients. Coughing symptoms also improved within 4.6 days — about 1.4 days earlier than those who did not take the drug.

Only 8.2% of the patients taking favipiravir needed respiratory aids, whereas 17.1% of the patients in the control group were put on devices.

The positive reception in China contrasts with reservations over Avigan in Japan, where the drug obtained regulatory approval in 2014 on condition that it would only be used if the government decided to fight new or re-emerging influenza viruses. Studies found that the drug may cause fetal deaths or deformities, and can be transferred in semen.

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