China & Japan Increasingly Turn to Favipiravir as a COVID-19 Treatment

Jun 23, 2020 | Antiviral, COVID-19, Favipiravir, News

China & Japan Increasingly Turn to Favipiravir as a COVID-19 Treatment

The Chinese and Japanese governments increasingly turn to Favipiravir as a recommended treatment targeting COVID-19. As it turns out, and not widely known in America, over 30 countries have included the antiviral medication as part of their treatment regimen for COVID-19, according to reports from the Chinese government. Because it is a broad-spectrum antiviral agents that inhibits the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase of RNA viruses, these governments evidence significant efficacy against a range of RNA viruses, from Ebola and influenza to COVID-19. Favipiravir can directly prevent the virus from replicating itself in cells, with a mechanism of reaction similar to remdesivir. But while remdesivir requires intravenous use, Favipiravir can be taken orally. Although TrialSite News has found buried in reports some concerns involving adverse reactions, no evident ones are reported since on the market. Importantly, the U.S. Department of Defense put over $130 million into Favipiravir-based research just five years ago. China, Russia, and India have approved it. Known as “FabiFlu” in India, its quite affordable. Also not well known, the first major R&D associated with the drug occurred not in Asia but involved the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

Originally developed by Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd, (and again in the U.S., a little reported parallel effort was occurring with a now defunct biotech company), the drug was approved in Japan as strategic stockpile as a countermeasure for influenza virus in 2016. In China, the patent of Favipiravir was exclusively franchised to Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co. Lt. (HISUN), which worked with CMAM to develop Favipiravir tablets for the Chinese market. That particular product was approved in China by February 2020.

China Promoting its Use

In China, the government propaganda machine has been directed toward Favipiravir as clinical tests published by the Ministry of Science and Technology indicate the drugs’ clinical efficacy against COVID-19. TrialSite News suspects that in places like China the drug becomes sort of a competitive showcase against remdesivir. In an age of greater jingoism, unfortunately, the vaccine and the various therapies appear to be fair game, for positioning and projecting a sort of national boast. But the underlying facts are important. The search for safe and effective treatments against COVID-19 should be objective and free of politics. If the drug is safe, effective and, importantly, affordable, then it should further investigate in the West.

In China, the drug is distributed nationwide by HISUN. Interestingly, although the drug went off patent in 2019, Chinese media in their promotion of HISUN fails to mention that point. Glenmark Pharmaceuticals in India has developed a direct, economical competitor. The drug has also been included into the Major Anti-pandemic Materials by China’s State Council, and the Chinese government has unified the allocation of Favipiravir supplies. Interestingly, the Chinese government has bestowed the honorary title of “Ordinance Factory” in responding to the COVID-19 crisis by that government.

Approvals & Commercialization

As TrialSite News has reported, Favipiravir is now approved for use against COVID-19 in Russia and India. It should be noted that India and China aren’t considered allies by any means; in fact, tensions are considerably high at this point. India has come to the conclusion as to the benefits of Favipiravir not because of some collaborative endeavor but because enough evidence has materialized that it made sense for the generic maker, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals to produce the drug and target COVID-19. A sophisticated generic pharmaceutical company, that the company now invests to produce and market FabiFlu is itself a material data point as to the momentum of Favipiravir in the world markets.

U.S. DOD was the Pioneer

The United States Department of Defense spent over $138 million on Favipiravir research endeavors. Back in 2012, a company called MediVector received $138.5 million from the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Join Project Manager Transformational Medical Technologies (JPM-TMT). The goal: develop Favipiravir (T-705), a broad spectrum therapeutic, against multiple influenza viruses including the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus and drug resistant influenza strains. The contract was established to help U.S. Joint Forces against naturally occurring pandemic influenza and/or biologically engineered flu viruses, reported Bispace

Biotech Firm Looking at Drug

Apparently Dr. Armand Balboni, now the CEO of Canadian Appili Therapeutics, worked with the DOD and the FDA on the Favipiravir projects. In a recent interview on Contagionlive, Dr. Balboni reported that his firm is collaborating with Fujifilm Toyama Chemical on its Favipiravir treatment. Appili Therapeutics will fund a Phase II clinical trial investigating the drug for the prevention of COVID-19. Interestingly, the clinical trials will commence with Canadian government agencies and infectious disease specialists for the study.

Conclusion

Favipiravir has been approved by the China, India, and Russia and is purportedly in use in at least 30 counties as a treatment against SARS-CoV-2. The drug can be taken in pill form, which is more convenient than currently is the case with remdesivir which requires intravenous administration. Gilead is working on other modes of administration

TrialSIte News recently reported on a number of clinical trials where the drug is under investigation targeting COVID-19. In the United States, that includes two clinical trials including one planned that is sponsored by Stanford University and another multi-center trial sponsored by Fujifilm Pharmaceuticals USA. It appears that the first serious Favipiravir research and development occurred thanks to the U.S. government nearly a decade ago. Significant capital was allocated to anti-viral research targeting naturally occurring pandemic influenza and/or biologically engineered flu viruses. 

Source: PR Newswire

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