Russia approves the use of antiviral drug against the coronavirus.

“It’s the most promising medicine to cure COVID-19” – Russia says.

MOSCOW Russia (Efe) – Avifavir is the first antiviral drug to treat COVID-19 registered by the Russian Ministry of Health after showing “great effectiveness” during clinical trials, according to the Russian Fund for Direct Investment (FRID)

The drug is based on favipiravir, which had already shown success in Japan. The Russian product is “categorically contraindicated” for pregnant women.“Avifavir is the first antiviral drug registered in Russia to treat the coronavirus and perhaps the most promising medicine to cure COVID-19 worldwide,” said FRID Director-General Kiril Dmitriev, quoted in a FRID statement.

According to the Russian official, this drug was developed and clinically tested “in record time.” It allowed it to become the first medicine based on favipiravir -antiviral developed in Japan- registered worldwide. Favipiravir, a generic antiviral, had already shown efficacy at an early stage of the disease and is marketed in Japan to treat severe influenza cases.

Avifavir, according to FRID, has shown high effectiveness in affecting the reproduction mechanisms of the coronavirus. The FRID has acknowledged that the drug is “categorically contraindicated” for pregnant women and people in the process of family planning.

Also, the FRID noted that it would not be available initially in pharmacies and “will only be used in hospitals under medical observation”.

In mid-May, Dmitriev said that 60 percent of the 40 coronavirus patients who took favipiravir tested negative for the virus within five days and indicated that the treatment could cut recovery time in half. According to data from clinical trials, the drug has high efficacy against COVID-19. The final stage of Avifavir’s clinical trials, involving 330 patients, is underway.

Avigan, from the generic Favipiravir, produced in Japan (Reuters)

Russia has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States. Currently, they are testing prototype vaccines in animals, while the fund has redirected resources to produce more tests locally.

This week, the World Health Organization temporarily halted clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19, as higher death rates were detected in patients receiving the treatment. The decision, a cautionary measure that could be reviewed, followed the publication in the medical journal The Lancet of a study indicating higher death rates.

Favipiravir is also being tested in India by Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd while WHO-sponsored clinical trials are checking the antiviral drug remdesivir (commonly used against Ebola), a combination of lopinavir and ritonavir (widely used for HIV carriers), and interferon beta, a standard treatment for multiple sclerosis, in patients.