Fujifilm seeks approval for Avigan as COVID-19 treatment in Japan

FILE PHOTO: Tablets of Avigan (generic name : Favipiravir), developed by drug maker Toyama Chemical Co, a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Co. are displayed during a photo opportunity at Fujifilm's headquarters in Tokyo October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Fujifilm Holdings Corp said on Friday it was seeking approval for its flu drug Avigan as a treatment for COVID-19 in Japan, a move that comes after a late-stage study showed reduced recovery time for patients with non-severe symptoms.

Shares of the company closed roughly 3% higher on the news.

The Nikkei newspaper last month cited here ministry sources saying approval could be granted to the drug within a month of its application.

Japan has already approved Avigan, known generically as favipiravir, as an emergency flu medicine, which is the subject of at least 16 clinical trials around the world. But concerns remain, as the drug has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.

Japan’s government has called on Fujifilm to triple national stockpiles of the drug. The company said in a statement it has been working with strategic partners to meet that goal and requests by other countries to supply the drug.

Fujifilm in July signed a deal with India’s Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and Dubai-based Global Response Aid to sell Avigan for COVID-19 globally, excluding in China, Japan and Russia.

The drug, known generically worldwide as favipiravir, has been approved in India and Russia to treat COVID-19.

Last month, Fujifilm said the late-stage study of 156 COVID-19 patients in Japan showed that symptoms of those treated with Avigan improved after 11.9 days, versus 14.7 days for a placebo group.

Results of the study, conducted by subsidiary Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, were found to be statistically significant.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Stephen Coates, Edwina Gibbs and Shinjini Ganguli