National / Science & Health

Fujifilm says French Ebola patient is taking its Avigan drug


Fujifilm Corp. said its influenza medicine Avigan is being given to an Ebola patient at a French hospital along with another experimental drug, the latest treatments to be deployed in the global push to curtail the deadly virus.

The French National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety asked for the drug and the female patient has been given the combination since Sept. 19, the Japanese company said in a statement Friday.

More than 6,200 people have been infected and 2,900 have died in the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and the virus could sicken more than 1.4 million people by January under a worst-case scenario projected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With no approved Ebola medicines, doctors and international agencies have been forced to test experimental drugs.

The Fujifilm treatment, also called Favipiravir, was discovered by Yousuke Furuta at the Toyama Chemical unit of Tokyo-based Fujifilm in 1998. It targets polymerase, an enzyme that viruses use to replicate inside the body, to stop the viruses from spreading.

“We’re getting many requests from other countries, international organizations, and medical organizations as well,” Fujifilm spokesman Takahiro Taguchi said.

As Avigan is originally a flu drug, the company has the capability to produce the drug continuously and deal with a rapid increase in demand, he said. The company has enough stock for 20,000 Ebola patients.

Fujifilm’s U.S. partner, MediVector Inc. in Boston, is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration to submit an application to use the drug in humans for Ebola, a U.S. Department of Defense spokeswoman said in August.

Favipiravir is in the final stages of human studies in the United States as a treatment for flu. A U.S. late-stage trial of the treatment for flu is scheduled to be completed around next March, the company said earlier this year.

The medicine won Japanese approval in March for government stockpiling for pandemic flu. Fujifilm is running a trial and is in discussion with Japanese regulators to get marketing approval to sell it for seasonal influenza, Kouichi Yamada, senior operations manager of Fujifilm’s drug products division, said in an interview in July.

The French woman working for Doctors Without Borders was repatriated from Liberia last week after she became infected, the French Health Ministry said Sept. 17. She’s being treated at a military hospital in Saint-Mande, outside of Paris. Health Minister Marisol Touraine authorized the use of several experimental treatments for Ebola patients, including Avigan, according to a French government decree published Sept. 19.

“The doctors say that the situation is stable, that she’s in good spirits,” Touraine said in an interview on BFM TV.

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