National / Science & Health

Japanese hospitals and companies rush to develop COVID-19 remedy

Jiji

Medical institutions and pharmaceutical companies around Japan are rushing to develop treatments and vaccines for new coronavirus infections.

Many hope that existing drugs developed for other illnesses can be swiftly repurposed to treat those infected with the coronavirus, as such drugs have already been tested for safety.

The National Center for Global Health and Medicine joined an international clinical trial in March on the use of remdesivir, which is being developed as a remedy for Ebola and was successfully used in Africa, to treat COVID-19 patients.

The drug is thought to be effective in preventing the replication of viruses. The clinical trial, led by the U.S. National Institute of Health, is expected to release partial results as early as April.

Meanwhile, Fujita Health University in Toyoake, Aichi Prefecture, central Japan, began a clinical trial on the use of the Avigan influenza drug as a potential COVID-19 remedy.

The drug, developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., a Tokyo-based affiliate of Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp., was reported by the Chinese government to be effective in treating those infected with the coronavirus.

The firm resumed production of Avigan in early March at the request of the Japanese government. The company is now preparing to increase output of the drug.

In Japan, Avigan has been approved as remedy for new influenza that cannot be cured by existing medicines.

In the clinical trial, Fujifilm Toyama aims to administer Avigan to 100 patients for up to 14 days.

Similar reports of efficacy in COVID-19 treatment have been made for chloroquine, a treatment for malaria that is not approved for use in Japan.

Gunma University in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, is expected to begin clinical trials using Plaquenil, a systemic lupus erythematosus remedy that is similar to chloroquine.

Others are researching the use of Alvesco, used to treat those with asthma, and Futhan, a treatment for acute pancreatitis, on COVID-19 patients.

Japan has had a late start in the race for vaccine development, with the U.S. National Institute of Health starting work on clinical trials for a vaccine in March using nucleic acid developed by a U.S. company.

The University of Tokyo is researching a similar vaccine, while Osaka University’s Research Institute for Microbial Diseases is aiming to develop a vaccine by artificially synthesizing the virus.

However, both efforts are expected to take over a year as safety checks require a long time.

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