The Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Egypt, Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, announced the success of communication with the Japanese manufacturer of Avigan as well as joining the scientific research with Japan in an attempt to reach a treatment for the novel coronavirus pandemic on Friday 10th March. Additionally, the advisor to the Minister of Higher Education for International Relations and Agreements for Scientific Research Affairs, Dr. Mohamed Al-Shennawy, announced that Egypt is getting ready to conduct clinical trials on samples of Avigan as a treatment for COVID-19.
Avigan is attracting the attention of the whole world and is considered a great hope for the treatment of COVID-19. So, what is Avigan?
Avigan is a drug produced by the Japanese company “Fujifilm” and was approved in 2014 in japan as an anti-flu. Favipiravir – its active constituent – works by a mechanism that targets RNA polymerase required for influenza virus replication. The drug is produced and distributed upon request by the Japanese government; also, it was never distributed in the market, but rather stockpiled by the Japanese government in case that other anti-flu drugs don’t work on new strains of influenza viruses.
Avigan, however, like all the other drugs, is not completely safe and has side effects which makes the decision of using it require caution. Among these side effects is birth defects that can cause damage to embryos and fetuses if taken through pregnancy.
But why is the world concerned about it now?
The manufacturing company explained the possibility of the drug to be effective against COVID-19 as both coronavirus and influenza viruses are both common in being single stranded RNA viruses that depends on Viral RNA polymerase on which Avigan targets. Fujifilm also began phase III clinical trial on Avigan on March 31st to evaluate its efficacy and safety in the treatment of COVID-19 patients in Japan as well as China.
The Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced that Avigan could be the possible treatment. Japan plans to provide this drug for 20 countries for free.
On the other hand, Avigan is totally different from the treatment announced by the president of the United States, Donald trump, as he was speaking about Plaquenil (an anti-malaria drug).
The clinical researchers are currently doing their best to evaluate the role of both drugs in the treatment of coronavirus in addition to searching for a possible vaccine for it.
Now we are just all waiting for these hopes to become confirmed facts.