Fujifilm and Ansun’s efforts to repurpose their influenza therapies to treat COVID-19 draw efficacy skepticism

With Fujifilm Toyama Chemical’s Avigan (favipiravir) already approved in Japan for influenza, that country had announced plans to stockpile two million courses of the oral drug for COVID-19, but reporting by Reynald Castañeda, Pharma Writer for the Investigative News team at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, notes that there are reservations about the drug’s potential in treating COVID-19.

Ansun Biopharma’s repurposing efforts with its clinical-stage flu candidate, DAS181, triggered similarly cautious views, according to reporting from Bernarda Tundzhay, Pharma Writer for GlobalData’s Investigative News team.

Tundzhay explains: “Both drugs are thought to have broad-spectrum efficacy on viruses, and early data so far from COVID-19 patients have provided some efficacy signals.”

Castañeda comments: “However, interviewed experts noted that results to date are not a bellwether for continued success in the ongoing trials. In fact, the broad-spectrum mechanism is a double-edge sword, as viruses are quite heterogeneous.” 

Besides sponsoring trials of Avigan in COVID-19, Fujifilm has also been ramping up manufacturing. On April 15, the company said it was expecting to have 100,000 treatment courses by July, ramping up to 300,000 courses by September. Fujifilm’s Japan-based trial is a Phase III, while the US study is a Phase II.

Ansun is sponsoring three trials that include COVID-19 patients, with one study focussed solely on the SARS-CoV-2 infection. The company announced it would be starting this investigation—a Phase II/III trial—on April 2 after it announced positive four-patient data from a China-based trial. 

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