Russian Health Ministry Approves Anti-Coronavirus Drug Avifavir

Russia’s Health Ministry granted a temporary registration certificate to the country’s first Covid-19 medicine, a generic version of the Japanese flu drug Avigan, the country’s wealth fund said in statement.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, upending economies and life around the world, drug companies have been racing to develop treatments and vaccines. Avifavir, developed by a joint venture of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and ChemRar Group, is designed to disrupt the novel coronavirus’s ability to reproduce and has proven effective in clinical trials.

While an international researcher of the drug has sounded a note of caution — joining scientists around the world who have tried to manage expectations of new treatments until they’ve been thoroughly tested — the head of the wealth fund said it was a potential breakthrough.

“Avifavir is not only the first antiviral drug registered against coronavirus in Russia, but it is also perhaps the most promising antiCovid-19 drug in the world,” Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said in the statement late Saturday. “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.”

Avifavir is a generic version of Fujifilm Holdings Corp.’s Avigan, which in a non-randomized Chinese study in March resulted in the faster clearance of the virus than when using an anti-HIV drug. Companies around the world are considering producing it, with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals currently conducting Phase 3 clinical trials in India that might be completed as early as July.

Yohei Doi, the lead researcher on a trial of the Japanese antiviral Avigan to treat Covid-19, said it’s too early to make a call on whether the drug works or not, and patients are still being enrolled.

Russia has recorded the world’s third-highest number of Covid-19 infection cases, according to Johns Hopkins University’s research center. Russian cases exceeded 405,000 on Sunday, while the reported death toll remains relatively low among some of the world’s largest countries, at 4,693.

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