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Fujifilm ramps up Avigan production as Japanese government stockpiles potential COVID-19 therapy

Japanese drugmaker plans to meet 100,000 treatment course target by July

Japanese pharma manufacturer Fujifilm is ramping up production of its influenza antiviral Avigan (favipiravir) as the Japanese government plans to stockpile the drug as a potential treatment for patients with COVID-19.

The company said it expects to progressively increase Avigan production up to 100,000 treatment courses by July 2020, around two and a half times more than at the beginning of March, when it began its current production run. It then intends to further accelerate production to 300,000 treatment courses by September 2020.

The Japanese government plans to stockpile 2 million treatment courses of Avigan, as part of its emergency economic package announced on April 7.

Fujifilm said that to boost supply, it is expanding capacity at its Wako Pure Chemical Co. facility for production of pharmaceutical intermediates used to manufacture Avigan.

“In addition, Fujifilm has established strategic partnerships with domestic and overseas companies for various manufacturing processes to source raw materials and pharmaceutical substances,” the company said in a statement.

According to Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases guidelines, favipiravir tablets should be administered as a treatment for COVID-19 for 14 days, including two 1800 mg loading doses on the first day followed by two 1,000 mg maintenance doses on days two to 14.

Avigan is only approved in Japan as an influenza antiviral, but it is currently going through phase II clinical trials to assess its effectiveness as a COVID-19 treatment. The drug selectively inhibit viral RNA polymerase necessary for influenza virus replication and it is this mechanism of action that scientists believe may have an antiviral effect on the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus, because like influenza viruses, coronaviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses that also depend on viral RNA polymerase.

While Avigan is not approved for use in any overseas markets, last week Fujifilm also announced the start of a phase II clinical trial in the US to evaluate its safety and efficacy in treating COVID-19.

The US trial will enrol approximately 50 patients with COVID-19, in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

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