Experimental drug remdesivir on verge of approval for coronavirus patients in Japan

screenshot an experimental antiviral medication might help fight the new coronavirus
Credit: STR/AFP

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday [April 27] that Japan will soon approve the anti-viral drug remdesivir for the treatment of coronavirus patients, in what will be the country’s first such decision amid the pandemic.

A government official said separately that the drug will be approved as early as next month to treat patients with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, as moves to develop therapeutic drugs and vaccines have been accelerating around the globe.

“The pharmaceutical approval (of remdesivir) will be possible shortly,” Abe told a parliamentary session.

Remdesivir has been developed by U.S. biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences Inc. as a possible treatment for Ebola.

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The New England Journal of Medicine recently published a study showing the drug’s effectiveness in nearly 70 percent of 53 coronavirus patients with severe symptoms, while it caused serious side-effects, such as deterioration of kidney function, in a quarter of them.

Once an application by Gilead Sciences is made, the Japanese government is set to fast-track its approval. This streamlining of the process — which involves postponing reports on domestic clinical tests to a later date — is available on condition that the drug has been approved in another country.

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