Japan to help fight Ebola outbreak if requested

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

If requested, the government will provide an unapproved medicine that might be effective in combating deadly Ebola virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) and other parties, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Monday.

The drug, Favipiravir, also known under its product name of Avigan, was originally developed as an anti-influenza medicine by Toyama Chemical Co., a part of the Fujifilm Holdings group.

If requested by WHO or other parties, the government is “ready to respond in cooperation with (Toyama Chemical),” Suga said.

During the news conference, the top government spokesman also pointed out that Japan has already provided $2.7 million to international organizations to help cope with the Ebola outbreak in four West African nations.

Experts are keenly interested in the tablet partly because it has already been extensively tested for human trial use as an anti-influenza drug.

Fujifilm’s U.S. partner, MediVector Inc. of Boston, has already been in talks with the U.S. authorities to submit an application to use the drug Favipiravir to fight the outbreak, according to a media report.

An official at the Health, Welfare and Labor Ministry official said several countries have already contacted it over the possible use of the drug to fight the virus.

The ministry is willing to cooperate with the WHO and any other countries as Suga said, but no details of what form any assistance will take have been decided on yet, the official said.