KEY POINTS

  • Russia recorded the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world
  • Drug companies worldwide have been racing to develop vaccines and drugs
  • Russian Health Ministry granted a temporary registration drug to the Japanese flu drug 

The health ministry of Russia approved a flu drug to be used in the fight against the deadly novel coronavirus after the preliminary testing showed promising results.

The drug "Avifavir" -- a generic version of the Japanese flu drug "Avigan" -- has been granted a temporary registration certificate as Russia's first COVID-19 drug, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)’s official statement. RDIF has been taking several effective steps in fighting the pandemic, which included a project to diagnose and treat COVID-19-related pneumonia using CT scans and artificial intelligence technology.

Avifavir has been used to treat severe forms of influenza in Japan and has been well studied since 2014. The drug disrupts the reproduction mechanisms of the novel coronavirus and is the first-ever direct antiviral drug in Russia that has proven effective in clinical trials.

Avifavir’s high efficacy against COVID-19 has been confirmed by the intermediate data of clinical trials. The final stage of the drug’s clinical trials -- currently ongoing involving 330 patients -- is approved by the Russian Ministry of Health.

“Avifavir is not only the first antiviral drug registered against coronavirus in Russia, but it is also perhaps the most promising anti-COVID-19 drug in the world. It was developed and tested in clinical trials in Russia in an unprecedentedly short period of time enabling Avifavir to become the first registered drug based on Favipiravir in the world,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of RDIF, said.

RDIF alongwith its partner ChemRar Group had manufactured its first batch of Favipiravir -- a drug that has been found effective in treating COVID-19 patients in China and Russia. Preparations are underway for the mass production of the drug.

Avifavir is a generic version of Fujifilm Holdings Corp’s Avigan, which resulted in the faster clearance of the coronavirus compared to an anti-HIV drug in a non-randomized Chinese study conducted in March.

Drug manufacturers worldwide are considering producing Avifavir, and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals is currently conducting its phase 3 clinical trials in India, which is expected to be completed by July.

However, it is too early to decide whether the drug works or not in treating COVID-19, and patients are still being enrolled for the study, according to Yohei Doi, the lead researcher on the clinical trial.

COVID-19 cases exceeded 405,000 on Sunday in Russia, Worldometers, an online statistical reference website, reported. According to John Hopkins University's research center, Russia has the third-highest number of COVID-19 infection cases in the world.