TOKYO -- Fujifilm Holdings announced on Thursday that it will start U.S. clinical trials of Avigan, its flu-fighter that is said to be effective in treating the novel coronavirus, within the week. The trials, which will evaluate the safety and efficacy of the drug, will enlist about 50 COVID-19 patients.
In Japan, the company began clinical trials on Avigan at the end of March.
A successful result in the U.S. will likely make Avigan easy to use around the world as other countries' health authorities take cues from the U.S.
The U.S. procedure, a phase 2 clinical trial in which a smaller number of patients will be treated, will last until the end of June. If Avigan is proven effective, the procedure will move on to phase 3 clinical trials, the final stage.
The clinical trials in Japan were fast-tracked to the phase 3 stage as Avigan had already been approved as a flu treatment.
Avigan was developed by Toyama Chemical, a subsidiary of Fujifilm. It gained attention in early March after a Chinese official said clinical trials indicated the drug is effective in treating the coronavirus.
The Japanese government has voiced its support for boosting Avigan production and seeks to triple the stockpiles of the drug within this fiscal year so it can be used to treat 2 million people. Coronavirus patients require about 120 tablets, which is three times the Avigan dosage to treat influenza. Japan will also make Avigan available at no cost to countries that ask for it as a coronavirus remedy.
Fujifilm has accelerated its Avigan efforts as the pandemic spreads globally. The company restarted production in early March. It began preparing to increase production after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed support for using it as a coronavirus treatment.