Japan to boost Avigan drug stockpile as part of coronavirus stimulus

FILE PHOTO: Tablets of Avigan (generic name : Favipiravir), a drug approved as an anti-influenza drug in Japan and 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

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is considering increasing the stockpile of Fujifilm Holding Corp’s Avigan anti-flu drug during this fiscal year so it can be used to treat 2 million people, according to a planning document seen by Reuters.

Local media reported on Sunday that Japan was hoping to triple the production of the drug from current levels, which is enough to treat 700,000 people if used by coronavirus patients.

Avigan, also known as Favipiravir, is manufactured by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, which has a healthcare arm although it is better known for its cameras. The drug was approved for use in Japan in 2014. Avigan is being tested in China as a treatment for COVID-19.

In the emergency stimulus package expected to be rolled out on Tuesday, the government also planned to prioritise the clinical trial process of the drug so it can be formally approved to be used in treating coronavirus patients.

According to the document, Japan also plans to boost subsidies to domestic companies that supply masks and disinfectants and will secure enough capacity to supply 700 million masks a month.

The Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday that in efforts to reduce its dependence on China as its manufacturing hub, it will subsidise companies that will move some of their production facilities back to Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday a stimulus package to combat the coronavirus pandemic will target small firms and households hardest hit by social distancing policies that are affecting consumption.

The package will include cash payouts to small firms and households facing sharp falls in income, Abe said.

The government will also urge private financial institutions to join government-affiliated lenders in offering zero-interest rate loans to cash-strapped small and midsized firms, he said.

Reporting by Takaya Yamaguchi; Writing by Mari Saito; Editing by Jacqueline Wong