20 coronavirus patients currently being treated in Cyprus hospitals will participate in the third phase of clinical testing of the influenza antiviral drug Avigan, to evaluate its safety and efficacy against COVID-19.
According to the Health Ministry, the Cyprus Drugs Council came to an agreement with the Cyprus Embassy in Japan and the Japanese authorities to import a quantity of the drug Avigan 200 mg, which will be given to 20 patients who were hospitalized after contracting the novel coronavirus, and who will be participating in Japan’s clinical trial of the drug currently taking place across 20 countries.
Avigan, also known as favipiravir, developed by Japanese company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. Ltd., is approved for manufacture and sale in Japan as an influenza antiviral.
The drug works by selectively inhibiting the RNA polymerase of the influenza virus, an enzyme required for viral replication once human host cells are infected. COVID-19 also uses this enzyme to replicate and is classified into the same type of single-stranded RNA virus like influenza, leading to hope that Avigan could be effective in treating the novel coronavirus.
Avigan is only used when there is an outbreak of novel or re-emerging virus infections in which other influenza antiviral drugs are either not effective or insufficiently effective.
Its production and distribution are at the discretion of Japan’s Health Ministry, and so the drug has never been distributed in the market and is not available at hospitals and pharmacies in Japan or overseas.