• Kyodo, Jiji

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The government is considering providing Avigan for free to other countries that want to use the flu drug to treat coronavirus patients, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday.

“Some 30 countries have made requests through diplomatic channels to Japan for the procurement of Avigan,” Suga said at a news conference. “We’re coordinating to provide the necessary amounts for free to countries wanting it.”

The drug, developed by a group firm of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., is considered effective for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

“We intend to expand clinical research on Avigan with countries wishing to cooperate,” the government’s top spokesman said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a news conference on March 28 that the government will push the development of vaccines and drugs to fight the pneumonia-causing virus.

Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co. said Tuesday it has begun clinical testing to evaluate the efficacy of Avigan, which is also known as Favipiravir, for treating COVID-19.

On Thursday, the German health ministry said it will seek to purchase Avigan tablets for that purpose. Local media said it will buy several million for patients with severe symptoms.

A study by researchers at Wuhan University and other institutions in China has shown cases in which Avigan was effective against the new coronavirus, especially for those with mild symptoms.

Avigan was manufactured and stocked in Japan as an influenza drug. There is hope it can eventually be used to help treat tick-borne illnesses as well as other diseases, including Ebola.

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