Russia approves drug to treat Covid-19, hospitals to use in June


Finished tablets cascade down the channels of a packaging machine during the manufacture of the Favipiravir antiviral medicine, a joint venture between the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and ChemRar group, at a plant in Khimki, Russia, on Monday, May 18, 2020.


Russia has approved an anti-influenza drug to treat Covid-19 and will start delivering courses of the drug, Avifavir, to hospitals in June, according to Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF).

RDIF has provided funding into Russia’s development and production of the drug which is based on favipiravir, an anti-influenza drug first developed in Japan under the name Avigan, in a 50-50 joint venture with Russian pharmaceutical firm ChemRar. 

Preliminary trials appeared to show that it could shorten recovery times for patients with Covid-19. The final stage of Avifavir clinical trials involving 330 patients, are ongoing, RDIF and ChemRar said Monday, but Russia’s Ministry of Health on Saturday already temporarily approved the use of the drug as a coronavirus treatment. 

“It’s a major, major step forward,” RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev told CNBC Monday. 

“We believe there are now only two antiviral drugs against the virus that are really effective, those are remdesivir, done by the U.S., and this favipiravir, which also has significant promise,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”

RDIF and the ChemRar Group said Monday that they will deliver 60,000 courses of Avifavir to Russian hospitals in June, they said, promoting it as among the world’s first coronavirus treatments to be approved.

“Avifavir is Russia’s first Covid-19 drug and has shown high efficacy in treating patients with coronavirus during clinical trials. Avifavir has received a registration certificate from the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation. Thus, Avifavir has become the first Favipiravir-based drug in the world approved for the treatment of Covid-19,” they said in the statement.

According to data received from an earlier clinical trial of the drug, 65% of the 40 patients tested negative for coronavirus after five days of treatment, which was two times higher than in the standard therapy group, RDIF and ChemRar said last month.

Russia has the third highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, with 405,843, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. The official death toll remains low, however, at 4,693.


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