Guinea to expand use of experimental anti-Ebola drugs

CONAKRY (Reuters) - Guinea’s government has authorized the wider use of an experimental drug to treat Ebola in treatment centers after successful initial trials, officials said on Saturday.

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

The expansion of the treatment comes as the number of people with Ebola in Guinea has doubled in the past week, reversing a broader trend of decline across the three worst-hit West African states - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The experimental Japanese drug - Avigan, or favipiravir - developed by Toyama Chemical, a subsidiary of Japan’s Fujifilm, has been tested by French and Guinean teams in southern Guinea since mid-December.

French President Francois Hollande’s office said on Wednesday that the results had been positive and the drug appeared to accelerated the recovery process of patients.

“We have decided to broaden the use of this drug. It will only be available in the Ebola Treatment Units, not the hospitals,” Sakoba Keita, coordinator of Guinea’s Ebola response, told reporters on Saturday.

Guinea’s anti-Ebola task force said about two dozen new cases of Ebola had been recorded in the last two weeks, taking the total number to 53 as of Friday. Officials are accessing villages where they had previously faced local resistance to their presence.

Health officials have not provided any data for the results of the trials of the anti-Ebola drug.

Keita said that after testing in Gueckedou and Nzerekore, favipiravir has been distributed to the town of Coyah and talks are underway start treatment in the capital, Conakry.

“We are looking to see how we can get it to other parts of the country too,” he said.

The epidemic has killed nearly 9,000 people over the last year, mainly in the three worst-affected West African nations.

Guinea, where the outbreak began, has recorded over 1,900 dead from some 3,000 confirmed cases.

“The Ebola situation is getting better but we are not cured,” said Jean-François Delfraissy, a French Ebola expert working alongside Guinean authorities to contain the crisis.

Reporting by Saliou Samb. Writing by David Lewis, editing by Mike Peacock