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Japan’s Fujifilm starts Avigan trial to treat coronavirus

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Japan’s Fujifilm has begun clinical trials to test the effectiveness of its anti-flu drug Avigan in treating patients with the new coronavirus, after reports of promising results in China.

Trials in China have suggested Avigan could play a role in shortening the recovery time for patients infected with coronavirus.

“The trial will be conducted on 100 patients until the end of June,” a company spokesman told AFP on Wednesday.

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“We will collect data, analyze them and file for approval after that,” he added.

The drug will be administered for a maximum of 14 days to coronavirus patients between 20 and 74 years old with mild pneumonia, the spokesman said.

The study excludes pregnant women due to side effects shown in animal testing, he added.

The phase three trial comes after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Saturday that the government “will begin the necessary process to formally approve (Avigan) as a treatment against the new coronavirus.”

China has already completed clinical trials on favipiravir, the main ingredient in Avigan, the country’s ministry of science and technology said last month.

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Two trials in the country found the drug shortened recovery time for patients, but Fujifilm was not involved in those programs.

Avigan is currently approved for manufacture and sale in Japan as an antiviral drug for flu.

“It is expected that Avigan may potentially have an antiviral effect on the new coronavirus” given the way it works on the flu virus, Fujifilm said in a statement announcing the trial.

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Researchers and companies around the world are racing to find a cure for the new coronavirus, with the focus on existing medicines such as anti-malaria and anti-HIV drugs.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat malaria have shown early promise against the COVID-19 illness in early studies in France and China.

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But experts urge caution until bigger trials demonstrate their effectiveness.

Medical researchers around the world are also working to find a vaccine for the virus, which has so far killed more than 42,000 people globally.


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Cancer patients twice as likely to die from COVID-19: study

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People with cancer are more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those without it, a large study published Thursday found.

The data on more than 900 patients in the US, Canada and Spain which appeared in a paper in The Lancet, found that mortality increased the further the cancer had progressed.

Cancer patients with decreased ability to carry out daily life tasks were more at risk than those with higher functionality.

The paper's authors looked at how many people died within 30 days of being diagnosed of COVID-19 of all causes.

"The 30-day all-cause mortality was 13 percent, more than twice the mortality reported as the global average by Johns Hopkins," Toni Choueiri, an oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who co-authored the paper told AFP.

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Ethics complaint filed to force Trump’s COVID-19 Vaccine Czar — a former pharma exec — to submit to ethics rules

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A pair of consumer watchdog groups on Thursday filed a formal federal ethics complaint stating that President Donald Trump's so-called "Vaccine Czar"—a former pharmaceutical executive with deep personal investments in the industry—should be forced to submit to the same conflict of interest and financial disclosure rules as other government officials charged with overseeing large sums of taxpayer money, especially as he stands to personally profit from his duties.

"Slaoui's blatant ties to Big Pharma, including the very drug corporations he's funneling money to, should make even the Trump administration blush."—Margarida Jorge, Lower Drug Prices Now

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Latin America’s slums facing losing battle against virus spread

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As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, Latin America's slum dwellers waited defenseless in its path. Now, with the region becoming the new epicenter of the crisis, the virus is unleashing destruction on its most vulnerable populations.

With limited sanitation and little space, millions of people living cheek by jowl in slums cannot take even the most basic hand-washing and social distancing precautions recommended by health authorities.

"We are increasingly concerned about the poor and other vulnerable groups more at risk from disease and death from the virus," Pan American Health Organization chief Carissa Etienne said this week.

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