Our friend Brian Sullivan is the founder and chief executive officer of a sophisticated biomedical company (as John put it yesterday). Over the past few days we have drawn on his review of the literature to put forward possible treatments of COVID-19 and his analysis of the data. He now brings to our attention Shin Watanabe et al., Nikkei Asian Review, “China says Japan-developed drug Avigan works against coronavirus” Subhead: “Positive reception by Chinese government contrasts with reservations in Japan.” Datedlined DALIAN, China/HONG KONG/TOKYO, the story opens:
An influenza medicine developed by a Fujifilm Holdings group company is effective against the new coronavirus, the Chinese government said on Tuesday.
Beijing has already begun recommending the drug favipiravir, developed by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical and sold under the brand name Avigan.
“It is very safe and clearly effective,” said Zhang Xinmin, director of the science ministry’s China National Center for Biotechnology Development, in a news conference.
Fujifilm Toyama developed the drug in 2014. It has been administered to coronavirus patients in Japan since February.
Brian comments: “Another potential treatment that looks promising. If we find evidence these drugs work, it changes everything. No more shelter in place and economic shutdown. Evaluating the efficacy of these drugs should be the HIGHEST priority because the effect on patient outcomes could be immediate. The vaccine work gets headlines but the benefits won’t be available for at least 12 months.”
Brian adds: “I hope you don’t mind my inundating you with these articles. The media are so poorly informed that folks like you are the only outlet in many cases for information to get to the general public.”
Reminder: Brian offers this question to some enterprising reporter attending the daily White House briefing on the pandemic: “Reports from South Korea, Australia, and China, suggest several existing drugs may be effective coronavirus treatments. These include the anti-malarial drug chloroquine phosphate and the HIV drug combination Kaletra. What is the government doing to investigate the potential effectiveness of these drugs?”
UPDATE: Brian draws attention to one more possible treatment identified here.
JOHN adds: The neurosurgeon whose mortality chart I published yesterday writes about another promising drug:
You and some of your colleagues have written about Resdemivir, an antiviral medication, developed for Ebola, now being suggested for use in COVID. This is the New England Journal of Medicine case report on the first US patient: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001191 . In summary, the patient was middle-age man who had returned from Wuhan, developed symptoms and became the first confirmed case in the US. He was hospitalized, and had a progressively worsening course until day 7, when they gave him Resdemivir. Amazingly, on Day 8 he began to improve, and began to clear viral loads. So there is some cautious optimism here, and hopefully the ongoing clinical trials demonstrate similar results (hopefully due in April?). If positive, the Administration should do everything they can to a) FDA approve, b) mass produce, c) waive liability, in order to combat COVID.
It appears that there are multiple promising therapies to treat COVID-19. As Brian Sullivan says, it will be a long time before a vaccine is on the market, while these treatments can be approved and in use very soon.
BRIAN’S FINAL COMMENT THIS AM: “Let’s hope someone in DC is reading these posts. I am very surprised there hasn’t been any mention in the White House briefings (as far as I know) of efforts to test these therapies. C’mon Man!”