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Pharmaceuticals

Avigan set for approval this month in Japan as coronavirus drug

FDA-approved remdesivir on track for green light as soon as this week

Avigan, developed by a subsidiary of Japan's Fujifilm Holdings, blocks viruses from reproducing within the body. (Photo by Koji Uema)

TOKYO -- Japan looks to approve flu drug Avigan as a coronavirus treatment within the month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters Monday, speeding up the process by months.

The drug originally was on track for approval in July or later, but Abe has directed the health ministry to accelerate its review of the drug.

Japan currently has no approved treatments for COVID-19, and the health ministry is giving priority to applications related to the virus. Avigan, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings, blocks viruses from reproducing within the body.

Meanwhile, a Japanese arm of U.S.-based Gilead Sciences filed an application Monday for remdesivir, which appears set for approval as early as Thursday. This comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved emergency use of the drug for treating COVID-19.

Clinical trials on Avigan have yet to reach the planned number of patients, but the drug has been administered increasingly in research contexts.

Japan has enough inventories of Avigan for about 700,000 COVID-19 patients. Abe's government aims to triple stockpiles to 2 million by next March.

Early approval for COVID-19 treatments will be considered if data from developers provides enough evidence of a drug's effectiveness and safety.

"There are paths to approval besides clinical trials," Abe said.

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