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Japan is set to approve remdesivir to treat coronavirus

The relatively quick move by Japan is expected days after the US authorised Gilead Sciences' remdesivir drug for emergency use on virus patients.

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Tokyo: Japan is set to approve on Thursday the antiviral drug remdesivir for use against the novel coronavirus, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, without giving details.

The relatively quick move by Japan’s usually conservative authorities is expected days after the U.S. authorized Gilead Sciences Inc.’s drug for emergency use on virus patients. Abe did not indicate in an interview late Wednesday whether the treatment will be approved for emergency, or general use.

Finding a treatment for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, could move the world closer to easing lockdown measures put in place to help slow its spread. One early analysis showed that about two-thirds of severe Covid-19 cases improved when treated with the drug, according to a report published in April.

Multiple trials of remdesivir are still under way. In April, the World Health Organization prematurely published results of a China trial by accident but retracted it soon after. The WHO post indicated that the drug didn’t show benefits in preventing death and reducing virus load, but the Chinese trial was halted early after researchers struggled to enroll patients.

While the virus has so far wreaked less health damage in Japan than the U.S. or some European countries, the economy has taken a severe hit. Abe has said treatments and vaccines are needed to help restore economic and social activities.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato had said earlier in the week that the panel charged with deciding on remdesivir’s approval was to meet Thursday and that the process would be completed as soon as possible.

Earlier this month, Japan’s Health Ministry said in a message to local governments that even if remdesivir is approved, supplies may be limited and will be controlled by the central government.

More than 15,000 people have been confirmed as infected with the virus in Japan, and more than 500 have died, although experts say the relatively small number of tests conducted means there are probably more undetected cases.

Japan has extended its nationwide state of emergency until May 31, with Abe saying the country’s coronavirus measures need more time to reduce infection rates. The state of emergency allows local governments to direct businesses to close and to urge residents to stay in their homes.

Abe told a task force Monday that experts would reexamine the situation around May 14 and that the government was prepared to remove some areas from the state of emergency early, if possible.

Abe said Monday he’s aiming to have Avigan, an antiviral drug developed by Fujifilm Holdings Corp., approved for use as a Covid-19 treatment by the end of this month. He added in the live streamed internet interview late Wednesday that trials were also beginning with an anti-parasite drug known as ivermectin, developed by Nobel prize-laureate Satoshi Omura.-Bloomberg

Also read: Does HCQ prevent Covid-19? ICMR now plans study on 2,000 health workers to find out


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