Chinese medical authorities said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza apparently has been effective in coronavirus patients.
The drug, "Favipiravir" also known as "Avigan" has been developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, a subsidy of Fujifilm, reported The Guardian.
According to Zhang Xinmin, an official at China's science and technology ministry, the drug has shown encouraging outcome after a clinical trial in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients,
"It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment," Zhang said.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug.
X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91 percent of the patients who were treated with the drug, compared to the 62 percent of those without the drug.
Fujifilm Toyama Chemical has declined to give any comment on this.
Japanese doctors are using the drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms in hopes that it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients.
However, a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms.
"We have given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn't seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied," the source said to a Japanese newsportal.
In 2016, the Japanese government supplied the drug as emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea. It would need government approval for full-scale use on COVID-19 patients since it was originally intended to treat flu.
Health officials said the drug could be approved as early as May.