National / Science & Health

Japan might approve anti-flu drug Avigan to treat coronavirus patients


Japan is considering using Avigan, an anti-influenza medication developed by a unit of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., to treat patients of the novel coronavirus, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Saturday.

“We will do everything we can,” Kato said on a TV program, noting that there is no established treatment for COVID-19 yet. The drug is also known as Favipiravir.

“We hear from overseas that some (drugs) among those that have been used against influenza may be useful,” he said.

Kato told reporters his ministry will check how effective flu drugs are at fighting the disease and, if necessary, make it possible for many medical institutions to administer them to patients.

He also said the government will disclose a basic policy on how to deal with the outbreak as soon as Tuesday. The policy will be based on one Japan already has in place for a novel influenza, according to government officials.

Avigan, developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., has been stocked in Japan as a flu drug but is viewed as having the potential to treat other diseases, including Ebola and a tick-borne illness.

As some studies have pointed to the possibility of it causing fetal abnormalities in animals, pregnant women are advised to not use the medication.

So far, about 750 people have tested positive for the pneumonia-causing coronavirus in Japan. But most of the people infected with the virus, which spread from Wuhan, China, were on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama.

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