The race to find a cure for the novel coronavirus is getting major assistance in Japan from Fujifilm, the global photography and imaging company based in Tokyo. A new report from Wired states that a team of Fujifilm employees was tasked by Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato, to find an antiviral pill that could be used to help fight COVID-19 symptoms. The Fujifilm team turned to Favipiravir, a version of an anti-influenza drug called Avigan (the Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical developed Avigan decades ago). According to Wired, Favipiravir was previously used to cut the Ebola rate in Guinea from 30 percent to 15 percent.
Beginning March 28, Japan’s prime minster Shinzo Abe “designated Avigan as Japan’s standard treatment for COVID-19.” According to Wired’s report, “At a hospital in Shenzhen, COVID-19 patients treated with Favipiravir tested negative for the virus after a median of four days, rather than the 11 days it took for members of the study’s control group to test negative; in another study carried out in Wuhan, patients taking the drug allegedly recovered from fever nearly two days earlier than those who did not take the medication.”
Japan is now relying on Favipiravir to help fight COVID-19, as are countries such as Turkey. The antiviral pill works “by inhibiting the replication of viral genes within infected cells, thereby mitigating the virus’ ability to spread from one cell to another.” The Fujifilm team is in the middle of a clinical trial using the antiviral pill that will conclude in June.
The hope is that the drug will prevent COVID-19 patients with low viral loads from getting any sicker. Japan’s prime minster announced last weekend the country will “start to boost production and proceed with clinical research in cooperation with those countries that wish to join us.”
Unlike the majority of the world, Japan hasn’t seen an explosion in COVID-19 cases and deaths. As of April 3, there have been 2,617 reported cases of the disease in the country and only 61 deaths. Fujimfilm team members told Wired that Indonesia is one of several counties contacting them and expressing interest in using Favipiravir to fight COVID-19, but the company “declined to name them [all the countries] and won’t say how much of the drug they will be exporting.”
Head over to Wired’s website to read more about Fujifilm’s fight to cure coronavirus.