Phase-III trial of favipiravir starts in Kathmandu and PokharaOriginally made to treat the flu in Japan, the drug is currently being manufactured in Nepal itself.
Nepal Health Research Council has decided to test antiviral medicine favipiravir on Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals in Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The drug, which is being administered under a phase-III trial, will be given to 600 patients with mild or moderate symptoms of the contagious disease.
“Yes the trial has started in Kathmandu and in Pokhara,” a doctor involved in the study, told the post, asking not to be named,
Favipiravir, originally made to treat flu in Japan, is being manufactured by Deurali-Janta Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd in Nepal.
“The Department of Drug Administration has decided to allow the use of the drug to treat patients infected with novel or re-emerging influenza infections,” Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director at Deurali-Janta Pharmaceuticals, told the Post. “But we have manufactured it for use in the treatment of the Covid patients in Nepal.”
According to Sharma, favipiravir has shown significant activity against several RNA viruses for which effective treatment is yet to be found. Covid-19 is also an RNA virus. He said that the drug is already being used in Japan, China, India, Turkey, Bangladesh, Canada,Thailand, Indonesia and other countries to treat Covid-19 patients.
“We started producing the drug after the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan,” Sharma said. “Infected patients need to be administered 122 tablets for 14 days for them to fight the infection.”
However, the drug is not free of controversy.
Doctors say patients can fight coronavirus naturally in 14 days even if they don’t take any medicine. That the drug manufacturing company said patients need to be administered the drug for 14 days sounds unconvincing, they said.
“Yes there is controversy surrounding the use of the drug. That’s why we are conducting the trial to test the effectiveness of the drug,” a doctor involved in the clinical trial told the Post. “The study should be taken positively as we have not said the medicine works perfectly.”
He claimed that countries like India and many others have been using the said medicine while treating infected patients. The drug can’t be used on pregnant women, as it is known to have adversely affected the foetus.
Earlier, the council had conducted trials for another antiviral drug remdesivir. Contrary to the findings of Solidarity Trial, an international clinical trial carried out by the World Health Organization, the council had claimed that remdesivir showed mixed results in Nepal and was effective in treatment of serious cases of Covid-19.
The UN health agency however, in its interim result said that remdesivir, along with other three drugs, have ‘little or no effect’ on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation and duration of hospital stay in the hospitalised patients.
A doctor actively taking part in the study told the Post that they have also been assigned to compare the efficacy of the favipiravir with that of remdesivir.
“We do not have other medicine to treat coronavirus infection at present after the World Health Organization said remdesivir does not help in the treatment. So we are conducting a trial for favipiravir,” he added.
Earlier, in August, the Ministry of Health and Population had decided to allow foreign companies to conduct phase-III clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines in Nepal. The council said companies from China, Russia and the UK are interested, but none have not applied to carry out trials.
In November, the government had sent diplomatic notes to India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US to help procure vaccines.
Meanwhile, an official at the Nepal Health Research Council said some questions regarding the use of favipiravir need to be resolved.
“I don’t know about the roll-out of the drugs,” the official, told the Post in condition of anonymity. “We should promote and encourage domestic drug manufacturing companies, but that does not mean Nepalis are ready to eat coal.”