Avigan and More: Japan Trials Three Country-Developed Drugs as Potential COVID-19 Treatments

TOKYO – While Japan aims to approve the use of Avigan (favipiravir), an antiviral drug developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., against the new coronavirus in the country within this month, researchers are also trialing three other country-developed drugs as possible treatments for COVID-19.

Futhan (nafamostat mesylate) is an anticoagulant and Japanese pancreatitis drug. It is believed to inhibit the entry of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Actemra (tocilizumab), a drug created by Chugai Pharmaceutical, is used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It is designed to block the activity of IL-6, a type of inflammatory cytokine. When IL-6 becomes overactive, it causes cytokine storm, which is a complication of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses caused by coronavirus.

Ivermectin, the so-called “wonder drug” of Japan, was discovered by Satoshi Ōmura in 1973. It is an anti-parasitic drug, which reportedly inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in cells in the lab.

"Their side effects and other properties have already been identified through their use as therapeutic medicines for other illnesses, and given that fact, their safety upon prescription has already been confirmed," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a press conference.

He went on to say that once the effectiveness of these drugs in treating the new coronavirus is confirmed, the government will fast-track their pharmaceutical approval.

"Insofar as the advantages of each drug differ, we also expect to see further therapeutic effects by combining them in an effective way," he added.

In early May, the Japanese Health Ministry has expedited the approval process of US-made drug Remdesivir to treat domestic COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

“While minimizing or delaying the wave of infections to the greatest possible extent to avoid explosive increases in infections, we intend to establish effective methods of treatment as early as possible,” Abe said.

As of Monday, Japan has 17,079 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 12,217 recoveries and 781 fatalities. - Florenda Corpuz

(Photo credit: © Cabinet Public Relations Office)