Expect investors to take a good look st FujiFilm Holdings (FUJIF) this week.
That’s because, on April 7, the US Food and Drug Administration green lighted one of its flu drugs for a trial as a novel treatment for COVID-19.
The drug favipiravir is made by a Toyama Chemical Co., a FujiFil subsidiary. The drug’s brand name is Avigan.
The trial will take place at three Massachusetts hospitals.
This comes on the heels of a report from Chinese doctors that the favipiravir is effective in the fight against the deadly coronavirus, which has, as of April 7, already killed more than 12,000 Americans and infected nearly 400,000.
Zhang Xinmin, of China’s Science and Technology Ministry, said favipiravir produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients.
“It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters.
Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus a median of four days after becoming positive, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug.
In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug.
Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients. But they are only treating patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients.
The Japanese believe the drug is not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. They’ve noted that Avigan doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied.
The initial US trial will take place at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
Researchers plan to involve 50 or 60 patients across the three sites. One group would receive the drug along with the normal standard of care, while a second control group would receive only the normal care COVID-19 patients currently receive, according to officials involved in the trial.
Doctors involved in the planned Massachusetts trial noted that the drug has been used widely in humans, so the side effects are relatively well known.
Avigan was developed as a flu medicine and has also been used to treat Ebola virus disease, which causes fatal hemorrhagic fever.
“The drug looks promising,” said Dr. Robert W. Finberg, an infectious disease specialist at UMass Memorial.
He said that in non-coronavirus laboratory tests the drug worked by causing the virus to misread its genetic instructions and not reproduce correctly, “so that the virus eventually melts down in the test tube.”