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Japan considers increasing stockpile of Avigan as the drug is tested to treat coronavirus

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14:01 | 06/04/2020

Japan will boost the reserve of Fujifilm Holding Corp’s Avigan anti-flu drug during this fiscal year aiming to serve as many as 2 million people, Reuters cited a piece of information from a planning document. 

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japan considers increasing stockpile of avigan as the drug is tested to treat coronavirus
Illustrative photo.

Local media reported on Sunday that Japan was hoping to triple the production of the drug from current levels, which is enough to treat 700,000 people if used by coronavirus patients.

Avigan, also known as Favipiravir, is manufactured by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which has a healthcare arm although it is better known for its cameras. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014. Avigan is being tested in China as a treatment for COVID-19.

In the emergency stimulus package expected to be rolled out on Tuesday, the government also planned to prioritize the clinical trial process of the drug so it can be formally approved to be used in treating coronavirus patients.

According to the document, Japan also plans to boost subsidies to domestic companies that supply masks and disinfectants and will secure enough capacity to supply 700 million masks a month.

The Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday that in efforts to reduce its dependence on China as its manufacturing hub, it will subsidize companies that will move some of their production facilities back to Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday a stimulus package to combat the coronavirus pandemic will target small firms and households hardest hit by social distancing policies that are affecting consumption.

The package will include cash payouts to small firms and households facing sharp falls in income, Abe said.

The government will also urge private financial institutions to join government-affiliated lenders in offering zero-interest-rate loans to cash-strapped small and midsized firms, he said.

A critical step in the current testing process involves clinical trials in Japan, one of which will conclude at the end of June,

The Thaiger reported that while there are not any detailed clinical reports supporting Avigan’s effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment, there are reasons for optimism. One of them arrived on March 17, when Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s ministry of science and technology, said that Favipiravir, the generic version of Avigan, had proved to be effective in treating COVID-19 patients at hospitals in Wuhan and Shenzhen, China.

While Avigan has been manufactured and stocked in Japan as an anti-influenza drug, there is hope it can also help treat other diseases, including Ebola and tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease.
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