Favipiravir – a Japanese antiviral drug being used by some countries to treat Covid-19 cases – has been proven to expedite the recovery of coronavirus patients in a clinical study conducted by the Bangladesh Society of Medicine.
Developed by the drug-maker Toyama Chemical Co, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Co, Favipiravir is approved as an anti-influenza medicine in Japan.
The Bangladesh Society of Medicine, an organisation of medicine specialists, published the findings of their clinical study on Monday.
About 48 percent of patients who received the drug tested negative in RT-PCR tests on the fourth day of their treatment. Within a week, 76 percent of patients received viral clearance, while 96 percent tested negative by the 10th day of the clinical trial.
The researchers also learned through using x-rays that Favipiravir improved lung functions in Covid-19 patients, who suffered no major adverse effects on their liver, kidney and blood sugar levels.
The efficacy of the drug was tested during a "Double-Blind Placebo Control Clinical Trial," the first of its kind in the country, between April 23 and June 23 on 50 patients at Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital, Mahanagar General Hospital, Mugda Medical College and Hospital and Kurmitola General Hospital in Dhaka.
The term "double-blind" means both patients and researchers were oblivious to who were receiving placebo, an inactive substance which is often a sugar pill, and who were receiving the drug.
Half of the infected patients took placebo in place of the medication.
In a double-blind clinical trial, the outcome is unlikely to be tampered with by patients' belief about what was going to happen and researchers' expectations.
On the 4th day, no patient in the placebo group tested negative. By the 7th day, 36 percent of placebo patients and by the 10th day, 52 percent came out negative in RT-PCR test results.
To confirm the results, two consecutive tests were done on each patient within an interval of 24 hours.
Based on the findings, Favipiravir has been suggested as a new drug for the treatment of Covid-19 patients, which, says the Society of Medicine, may save the lives of thousands of people in Bangladesh.
The researchers recommended that the drug should be administered immediately after the disease is diagnosed as "first line therapy" and that it should be included in the national guidelines for Covid-19 treatment management.
Favipiravir has already shown promising results in the treatment of mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 in China and Japan, the report said.
Around a dozen companies, including Orion Pharma, Beximco and Square are making Favipiravir in Bangladesh.
In response to a query, Beacon Pharmaceuticals Ltd's Marketing Director Monjurul Alam said, "Bangladesh does not need to import Favipiravir, as local companies can meet the demand for it."