Does existing virus inhibitor favipiravir offer hope for corona patients?

Research by virologists from the Rega Institute (KU Leuven) with the virus inhibitor ‘favipiravir’ may offer hope for corona patients. Tests in hamsters infected with the coronavirus show that an existing influenza drug ‘favipiravir’, when administered in high doses, has a virus-inhibiting effect. That writes, among other things, the Gazet Van Antwerp. The drug is known, among other things, under the brand name ‘FabiFlu’ and is already used in India ‘in an emergency’ for the treatment of certain ‘mild and moderate’ COVID-19 patients. Whether it also means a definitive breakthrough is not yet clear.

In their study, the Belgian team investigated the effect of both favipiravir and hydroxychloroquine. The latter drug turned out to have no effect on the hamsters, KU Leuven reports.

Concerning the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, a recent one showed Dutch study then again shows that the drug has an effective effect could have for the treatment of certain corona patients. The often contradictory research results do not always make it easy to know the exact state of science. It is important to note that the Rega Institute’s research into the existing antiviral drug was conducted on hamsters.

The level of the administered dose is crucial for the influence on the virus inhibitory effect in hamsters

The team of researchers from Leuven, led by virologist Johan Neyts, administered both hydroxychloroquine and favipiravir to hamsters for several days. The latter medicine is used in Japan against the flu virus.

The tests showed that the level of the administered dose of faviparivir had an influence on the virus inhibitory effect. Irrespective of the way in which the test animals became infected, the researchers found that no active virus was found in test animals with a high dose of faviparivir.

No effect was measurable in laboratory animals that received only a low dose or no dose at all. The level of the dose therefore appears to be crucial. Before speaking of a definitive breakthrough, more clinical tests on humans are of course needed.

Medication has been used in India since August to treat corona patients ‘in emergencies’

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals introduced on August 2 this year’s virus inhibitor on the Indian market in the form of a 400 mg version in tablet form. It is used in India for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients, ‘in an emergency’.

Glenmark is also conducting a Phase 3 clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of two antivirals favipiravir and umifenovir as combination therapy in moderately admitted adult COVID-19 patients in India. An important side note remains that the drug has not yet been tested widely enough on humans to be able to speak of a major breakthrough.

It is suspected, however, that this drug is most effective when patients receive it at an early stage of the disease, and in a sufficiently high dose. For these reasons, it is also suspected that it may have a preventive effect.

More information about the introduction of this medicine on the Indian market can be viewed in the video below, which dates from June 2020.


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