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Japanese flu drug effective in treating coronavirus patients, says China

Shares in Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp <4901.T> surged 15% on Wednesday morning after a Chinese official said the company’s Avigan anti-flu drug appeared to help coronavirus patients recover.

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.

Favipiravir has been effective, with no obvious side-effects, in helping coronavirus patients recover, Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s Science and Technology Ministry, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday.

A Fujifilm spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the Chinese government’s announcement. Fujifilm manufactures Avigan only on receiving orders from the Japanese government and has no sales target for the drug, she said.

Fujifilm shares closed the morning up 14.7% at 5,207 yen, having briefly hit their daily limit high of 5,238 yen.

In a clinical trial in Shenzhen involving 80 participants, patients who took Favipiravir showed greater chest improvement and took less time to test negative for the genomic trace of the virus, compared with patients not given the drug, Zhang said.

First developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co Ltd, the drug has been approved for manufacturing in China by Zhejiang Hisun Pharmaceutical Co Ltd <600267.SS> for use against new or recurring influenza in adults, the Chinese drugmaker said in a filing last month.

In 2016, the Japanese government supplied Favipiravir as an emergency aid to counter the Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea.

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