Does The Teratogenic Drug Avigan (Favipiravir) Really Work On COVID-19 Or Is It Just A Placebo That China Wants To Use As A Bargaining Chip?
: Favipiravir or Avigan the flu drug that was developed by Toyama Chemicals in Japan that has since been acquired by Fuji Films Pharmaceuticals has been touted by many countries as an experimental drug for treating COVID-19 despite weak studies supporting its efficacy.
It was brought to media attention by China advocating its use in one of its national health guidelines based on random use by some of its researchers during the initial stages of the crisis.
Subsequently the first study on its usage was done by Chinese researcher, Dr Qingxian Cai, of the National Clinical Research Center for Infectious Diseases at The Third People’s Hospital of Shenzhen in China. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809920300631#!
However from the study, it was noted that the health characteristics of the people in the two groups of the study were statistically comparable at the start of the study, there were important differences between them that cast some doubt on these results.
For example, more participants in the favipiravir group were younger and leaner and had the treatment sooner after the onset of symptoms. On the other hand, fewer participants in this group had fever, for instance.
Also, because the study was so small, such minor differences as these can skew the results despite the scientists accounting for these factors in the analysis. In other words, the slightest error could bias the findings.
This small study provides some potentially exciting results, but the lack of randomization, the differences in severity of the disease, the differences in age of the two groups, and the lack of blinding of outcomes to the researchers all cast doubt on the findings.
However it must be noted that most studies conducted by Chinese researchers are not that reliable and also certain journals especially those by companies that have lots of business interests in China such as supplying CDS (Clinical Decision Support ) services to Chinese hospitals or teaching content for medical universities etc do not carry much credibility as there is business and commerce gains being weighed in. The Chinese government also has a reputation of manipulating research data to suit their needs.
China was supporting it usage as it had the generic rights to the drug as it had bought those rights from Toyama Chemicals. Furthermore most of the raw materials for the manufacturing of the drug originated from China hence it could also influence Japan’s production capabilities. Also China and not Japan, has the manufacturing capability to mass produce the drug for various countries needs.
It must be also noted that in most cases of patients exhibiting mild symptoms of COVID-19, it has been demonstrated that a variety of drugs being studied for repurposing to treat COVID-19 were to be able to offer a certain degree of relief but whether they are really able to kill, eradicate or suppress replication of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is debatable and in most cases it seem that it is the body’s own immune system that has been doing most of the work while .
In another Chinese study comparing its efficacy versus Arbidol (Umifenovir ), it was found to be not that really effective but it did help to relief the fev
ers (pyrexia) and coughs. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.17.20037432v4
It also must be noted that previous studies had already confirmed that Avigan or favipiravir was classified as a Teratogenic Drug ie it could cause developmental malformations in embryos or fetuses.
In addition, past clinical tests suggested that Avigan was less effective than Tamiflu as an anti-flu drug.
There were also no studies conducted to assess as to whether it could be carcinogenic or not as it had the capability to cause gene modifications.
For variety of reasons, the drug was never used as even a flu drug which was what it was really intended for.
It only got ‘dusted off the shelf’ by China after it had acquired the generic licensed and was promoting its use heavily to treat COVID-19.
Surprisingly the drug itself is not used extensively in China as it is still using other HIV antivirals and alpha-interferon and also a variety of TCM preparations.
China however had given complimentary doses to a variety of countries and these same countries had to order huge amounts at higher prices and also with diplomatic and trade conditions attached.
There are currently about 17 clinical trials underway and despite some almost being completed, there had been no announcements by researchers of the progress. Fuji Films has started a major clinical trial just while there are also two major trials underway in the US. https://www.covid19-trials.com/
Some medical experts are warning that its use should wait till the results of major credible clinical trials and also pending further research to assess its safety and also to assess whether it could be potentially carcinogenic or not.
For more on COVID-19 Drugs
, keep logging on to Thailand Medical News
We desperately need your kind help! Please help support our site and our initiatives to propel and aid research by making a donation to help sustain the site. We are also trying to raise funds to help poor undocumented refugees who have no access to public healthcare during the COVID-19 crisis. Donations are accepted via paypal