Fujifilm’s Flu Drug Turned Ebola Drug Avigan Proven Effective

Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s drug Avigan, which has shown signs of efficacy against the Ebola virus, has drawn interest from about 20 countries and the company stands ready for large orders, its chief executive said.

“We can provide as much as we are asked for,” said Shigetaka Komori in an interview Friday. The company has enough of the drug’s basic ingredient on hand to manufacture pills for 300,000 people and will ramp up production if necessary, he said.

The head of Guinea’s Ebola-response program wasted no time announcing approval of Fujifilm’s Avigan (favipiravir) influenza drug to treat early cases of Ebola in the West African nation.

Program Coordinator Sakoba Keita said the drug, developed by Fujifilm’s Toyama Chemical unit, would be available only in three special Ebola-treatment centers in the country and possibly two additional centers later.

Using Avigan to treat patients with low to moderate levels of the virus in their blood will be limited to those clinics. The drug would not be made available to patients in hospitals, either public or private, the government said. “It takes training of health workers on the use of this drug,” the announcement said.

In their first comments to media since the release of early clinical trials last week, executives from Fujifilm’s drug unit Toyama Chemical said the results were a “good first step” that could lead to larger and better-designed trials.

“They were better than my expectations,” Fujifilm director Yuzo Toda said in an interview at the company’s office in Tokyo.

“Taking this medicine as early as possible (means) the mortality rate can be significantly reduced. That sends a very strong message to the patient.”

Testing began late last year, led by INSERM, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research, and is being funded by the European Commission.

The ongoing clinical trial in hard-hit Guinea — dubbed Jiki, meaning hope in the local language — is testing the drug on patients with Ebola, which causes severe vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes fatal bleeding.

Results from only 80 people are available so far, but they show that among those who received the drug early in their illness, 15 percent died.

However, among those who received it when their viral load was high, 93 percent died, according to the preliminary results presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington.




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