Coronavirus cure: Russia sees promising results for miracle antiviral drug

RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said 60 percent of the 40 coronavirus patients taking favipiravir tablets tested negative for the virus within five days. Dmitriev said the treatment could cut coronavirus recovery times in half.

The drug was first developed in Japan under the name Avigan.

Drugmakers around the world are racing to develop treatments and vaccines to treat coronavirus patients.

The coronavirus has now killed over 290,000 people worldwide.

More than 4.2 million have been infected and economies have been ravaged globally.

Avigan, known generically as favipiravir, was developed in the late 1990s by a company later bought by Fujifilm as it moved into healthcare.

The drug works by short-circuiting the reproduction mechanism of certain RNA viruses such as influenza.

Favipiravir is also undergoing trials in India by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Russia, which has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases behind the United States, is also testing vaccine prototypes on animals, while the RDIF has diverted funds to produce more tests domestically.

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“This will reduce the burden on medical centres and, according to our estimates, will also reduce the number of epidemiologically dangerous patients by about 50 percent,” Dmitriev said, referring to a course of favipiravir treatment.

The clinical trial of 330 patients infected with the coronavirus should be finished by the end of May, said Andrei Ivashchenko, a professor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and chairman of the board of directors at ChemRar, the company conducting the trials.

“ChemRar’s existing production facilities… will allow us to produce tens of thousands of treatment programmes per month, which we estimate and hope will be enough for the Russian Federation as a minimum,” said Ivashchenko.

The professor claimed early tests showed that there were minimal side effects on patients.

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However, he added that more testing was needed before pregnant women could use it.

In contrast, the same drug, known as Avigan in Japan was found to cause birth defects.

Ivashchenko also said there was not enough data to say how effective the treatment would be for severely ill patients.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets out a four-phase overview of how clinical trials work.

The trials underway in Russia would fall into the first phase of that framework.

“Phase I studies usually test new drugs for the first time in a small group of people to evaluate a safe dosage range and identify side effects,” the WHO says on its website.

Meanwhile, in the UK vaccine trials by the University of Oxford in partnership with pharmaceutical giant AstraZenenca could produce the first results as soon as mid-June.

Millions of doses are set to be distributed free of charge.

Human trials of the vaccine developed by the University’s Jenner Institute began last week.

Hundreds of people have volunteered to be part of the study which received £20million in Government funding.

Professor Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University described the partnership with AstraZeneca as a “major force in the struggle against pandemics” for the foreseeable future.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir John said he hoped that some results from a human trial of the vaccine would be available by the middle of June.

He told Today that the challenge now is to be able to manufacture at scale once it is approved by the regulators.

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