MANILA (UPDATE) — The Japanese government on Thursday provided the Philippines anti-flu drug Avigan tablets as the latter conducts clinical trials for possible COVID-19 treatment.
In a statement posted on its website, the Embassy of Japan in Manila said the tablets, which are delivered as part of its "emergency grant aid to countries severely affected by COVID-19," are intended for 100 patients.
"Japan hopes that this ongoing cooperation with the Philippines would further contribute to the advancement of clinical research to contain the COVID-19 pandemic," it said.
Japanese Embassy press officer Tomoyuki Honda later confirmed to ABS-CBN News that the donation was intended for the Philippines' clinical trials of the anti-flu drug.
Japan had promised to provide supplies of Avigan to the Philippines and 40 other countries for clinical studies on its efficacy as a coronavirus treatment.
The drug, also known as favipiravir and developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., has shown promise against the new coronavirus in earlier clinical trials.
Avigan, according to the embassy, "had drawn interest from so many countries for its potential to prevent viral replication, even as its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus is yet to be established."
Experts have warned that the drug could cause birth defects and couldn’t be administered to expectant mothers.
"In response to the requests received from the international community, Japan has formed close cooperation with several countries, including the Philippines, to expand clinical research on Avigan as treatment for this infectious disease," the embassy said.
"Each recipient government has acknowledged of Avigan’s proper usage and prescription in view of its known adverse side effects," it added.
The Philippines took part in the World Health Organization's solidarity trial with possible treatment approaches to COVID-19 using remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir, and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon.
It later stopped the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, and the combination HIV drug lopinavir and ritonavir in its treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, following the Who's move.
On Thursday, the number of coronavirus infections in the Philippines neared 120,000, exceeding Indonesia as the country with the most COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia.